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But Dad, I Hate 3D!

by Jeff Steele

Her eyes are just as strange in 2D as 3D.

I was surprised to learn over the holiday weekend that my younger cousins (under 10 years of age) overall hated to see movies in 3D, as opposed to 2D. The reason: they don’t like wearing glasses for 2 hours. There was no bias coming from the parents, and whatever format the kids chose the family saw together.  This was not a surprise when it comes to toddlers, who can’t sit still for any length of time, let alone keep glasses on. But kids being kids, I naturally assumed they would vote for technology and novelty every time, so I was surprised when my generalization was disproved by these exceptions.

Subsequent to this revelation, I just went to see Tangled with my toddler; I naturally sought-out the 2D version and was further surprised to find that only one theater in all of Los Angeles was showing the 2D version and it was on the other side of town, which can be a major deterrent.

This scarcity of 2D screens leads me to presume that what I learned this weekend is already common knowledge amongst parents of young kids (under 10) and that studios are knowingly foregoing this demographic in favor of the older, 3D audiences.  The 3D box office numbers obviously make a compelling case for studios, and the mere availability of 2D alternatives tells me that either the studios are aware, but only willing to make minor accommodations, or they aren’t aware and are only making 2D versions because 3D screens aren’t completely ubiquitous.  If the former is correct, then I believe the studios are selling themselves short by not making 2D versions more available; if the latter is correct, then 2D could become obsolete once 3D fully pervades the land.

So where do parents go to see 3D films that can’t be watched in 3D?  They can either wait for 2D versions on DVD/VOD, or watch them in 2D on cable — or they can skip the film altogether.  I discussed the alternative of watching 3D films at home, and the parents felt that that was even worse than watching it in a theater.  The parents I spoke with unanimously agreed that they were not interested in watching 3D at home, even with older kids, until glasses were were no longer needed.  It’s understandable that little kids don’t want to wear the glasses, but when it comes to watching 3D home, even the older kids (and adults) seem to lose interest because the glasses inhibit doing other things while watching the movie, like reading or playing on their computers or phones.  This significantly raises the stakes for companies like RealD and Toshiba which are investing heavily in 3D televisions that do not require glasses.  Alternatively, I suppose LensCrafters could make an equally big investment in 3D bifocals.

The point being, if your film is intended for an audience under 10 years old, I wouldn’t rush out to make it in 3D, just yet.  These kids might like 3D, but not enough to warrant 90 minutes of annoyance.  If you’re going to do it anyway, then take a page from Captain EO and give them lots of flying things to grab for.

15 Responses leave one →
  1. November 29, 2010

    I think the 2D alternative has more to do with offering a low-cost alternative in working class neighborhoods in a tight economy. Remember, the only reason that they are doing this is to charge kids 13 dollars for a ticket instead of the 8 that they usually charge – more in cities, obviously.

    Having said that, I hate 3d too, but my kids wanted to see Tangled in 3d. The 3d was better than Megamind, anyway. But films were already in 3d (time is a dimension), and there were plenty of conventions in 2d that allow for more interesting manipulations of the distance dimension. 3d just doesn’t add anything. You forget about it after five minutes.

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  2. Scott Hillman permalink
    November 29, 2010

    this is also ignoring the 3 or 4 percent of the population that either has one eye(in which 3D can just be confusing) or have Myopia, Walleye, or just have widly diffrent vision levels in each eye such that 3D is litterally painful to watch.

    I am big beliver in 3D as both a financial and artistic addition to Film. But i also know that you can’t ignore any audience if you want to survive.

    (and i would argue that Glasses free 3d TV [which requires sitting in realitvly the same position all the time to work]isn’t going to help young Kids that much)

    (And from my experience with 3D in any format is its not a media that is conductive to paying half attention)

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  3. November 29, 2010

    I’m not sure who 3D is for, actually. Sometimes it adds to the experience (i.e. Avatar, Despicable Me), but most of the time it seems gratuitous. The small theater chain down the street from my house converted two of there screens to 3d, and now they play every children’s film in 3D only. Other than the time that I won free tickets (for Megamind), I choose to drive ten miles to another movie chain that offers the films in 2D. My daughter hates to wear the glasses, and the “experience” isn’t worth the $2-3 upcharge.

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    • mark irvingsen permalink
      November 29, 2010

      3D movies are made for the distributors as they get that extra$5 a ticket for an inferior film. Biggest problem with 3D is it really darkens the image, even with cartoons. If I can’t see a movie in 2D, you are right, I wait for it to come out on DVD.

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  4. November 29, 2010

    Not surprised.

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  5. levi permalink
    November 29, 2010

    just went to a technology expo in burbank. had this exact discussion with the 3d reps. with two main points:

    1. why watch when you need glasses (there was an article – dont remember where i saw it – that stated people who tried out 3d tvs were less likely to buy them).

    2. for 3d to be truly effective you need SIZE. even on a 50 in. screen 3d is a waste as you dont get the ‘immersion’ experience that it is trying to bring (hence why it works well in theaters – LARGE screens).

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  6. November 30, 2010

    Great article Jeff. I wonder where the extra $5 per ticket for 3D is going? Maybe less than a dollar back to the producers?

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    • Joe Orlandino permalink
      November 30, 2010

      Good article Jeff. Thx for the insights.

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    • Jeff Steele permalink
      December 1, 2010

      Depends on who paid for the 3D elements (or conversion). Some conversion companies are funding the process and participating in the upside derived from the 3D version.

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  7. Andy Halmay permalink
    November 30, 2010

    Consumers have a history of periodically spending time and money on senseless things; particularly in entertainment. Since they are willing to shell out considerably more for a ticket to a 3-D film, that makes these films easier to fund and distribute whether they provide a real improvement or advantage or not. This is for the time being.

    Even though one child’s reaction can’t be extrapolated for valid research, my guess is that the kid speaks for the majority. We live in an age of lunacy with billions blown on what fools en masse feel has merit. In time reality confronts all concerned.

    Social media was all the rage and is still considered great by smaller numbers. Betty White on NSL last May spoke for the sane of the world when she analyzed it all and concluded “It is a great waste of time.”

    Murdoch is now preparing to sell MySpace (if he can find a buyer) because he is bleeding at the rate of hundreds of millions per quarter.

    Money can be made ephemerally off gimmicks in entertainment but not for long.

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    • Jeff Steele permalink
      December 1, 2010

      Zeigeists pervade all industries: real estate, Wall Street, entertainment, and of course, fashion and technology, where perceived obsolescence reigns supreme.

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  8. December 1, 2010

    I’ve been especially concerned about the growing trend to use 3-D because I find myself often in that small minority that has trouble watching it. I was fine watching Avatar, but anything else has given me quite a headache, the point that I can barely keep looking at the screen.

    I’m cool with having options, but concerned they’ll take my options away.

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  9. December 12, 2010

    From your quote, Jeff, “… so I was surprised when my generalization was disproved by these exceptions,” leads me to believe your under-10 cousins proved to you all your education, skills and experience in this industry were shattered by 10-yr-olds.

    I know how you feel.

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  10. LfO permalink
    February 10, 2011

    I was just at a presentation by a behavioural optometrist who went into the developmental issues of children and sight as related to 3D viewing.

    Simply put – KIDS UNDER FOUR dont yet have a brain that is developed fully enough to manage the process of watching real life 3D.

    If you throw the illusion of 3D created by 3D filmmaking, then that age extents from about six up to possibly eight – which is the age when the majority of children will have fully developed their focuing and tracking muscles around their eyes.

    This is the age when most children are picked up with reading problems – either from immaturity of their muscle development, or from other congenital problems.

    On a very basic ergonomic level, the kids get annoyed if they are only offered adult sized glasses – as the spacing between the lenses is wrong, and the longer ear pieces mean that whenever they sit back in their seats, the ear pieces hit the chair, and the glasses fall off their nose !!

    On a personal note – I noticed that my kids started to sit through and really enjoy 3D films from about 8, my son a little earlier than my daughter – but she has significant eye development issues with her focus and tracking muscles – the very muscles need for viewing 3D. Prior to a 4 month series of eye therapy, with an optometrist, she couldnt sit through more than about 5minutes without taking her glasses off, rubbing her eyes etc – now she can sit thru a whole movie if the stereography is well done. If it’s not, she’s a barometer for it, since she will literally yelp in pain. Recent films which seems to work well were Tangled & Megamind, Despicable Me, and while Guardians of Gahoole was good for most of the time – there was a point about 20minutes in where she let out a painful yelp, which made the people around her wonder if she had hurt herself.

    People in the older set who have started to have hardening of their eye lenses, will have more difficulting with convergence, so will be more…

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  11. LfO permalink
    February 10, 2011

    I might add – our local cinemas dont charge extra for the 3D, they just encourage you to recycle your glasses. So if you BYO – same price. If you hire a pair, and return – it’s one dollar more.

    The only place I’m seeing premiums of $5 is in IMAX cinemas – suggest you complain !!

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