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BLOG: 3D Is The Future Of Cinema, And We Wont Have A Choice

It seems like the trouble people had finding Dredd in 2D cinema showings might be the start of a worrying trend. After my previous blog concerning how difficult it was to find Dredd in 2D, a friend of mine, Sarah Fones, brought to my attention that Sony’s Screen Gems is using a similar tactic with the release of the latest Resident Evil film (don’t judge; it’s a guilty pleasure). It seems Odeon, Vue, Cineworld and Showcase are all showing the film in just 3D. In fact, Sarah couldn’t find a single showing of the film in 2D anywhere, despite the film being advertised as available in 2D and 3D on trailers, posters and even on some of the above mentioned chains websites.

Sarah wears glasses and can’t see 3D, like my other half. And like me, her husband thinks 3D doesn’t enhance films; he finds it distracting rather than immersive and he’d rather see films in 2D. They found themselves in exactly the same position we were in in the run up to Dredd ; there’s a film they want to see but they won’t be able to see it because they can’t find a 2D showing. Wanting to know why she wouldn’t be able to see the film she wants to, at any of her local cinemas, Sarah contacted the Odeon and Showcase chains and was told the cinemas only get the prints the distributors give them.

Sarah has also been in contact with YourLocalCinema.com , who help people find theatres with subtitled and audio descriptive showings, concerning a lack of 2D and whether it counts as discrimination; and The Cinema Exhibitors Association, who represent cinema owners, concerning general 2D showings and Odeon over them falsely advertising 2D showings they didn’t have on their websites; and Sony about their tactic of only issuing 3D prints of Resident Evil . She was told varying things about 3D being a good anti-piracy measure and 3D being more profitable and it seems the people who can’t see 3D don’t really matter.

The “Where’s my 2D” investigation Sarah started is attracting some support. If you’re interested in following Sarah’s progress, or seeing the responses she’s getting, she has a Facebook page and there’s a Twitter hashtag too, check ‘em out.

I’m fully behind Sarah in her cause because, as I have said before, 3D has changed I and my partner’s cinema going habits. We’re fans of films, we love going to the cinema and we’re not happy about being marginalized.

Across the board 3D is on some shaky ground. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, despite a record number of 3D films being released in 2011, the overall US domestic box office receipts were down on the previous year. Although profits as a whole increased during 2012, the majority came from 2D presentations . Only slightly more than 50% of moviegoers opted to see The Avengers and 32% seeing Brave in the 3D formats.

On the gaming front several companies are pulling back from 3D, with Nintendo , EA and Sony all scaling back on developing games and platforms that utilise the technology. Earlier this month the BBC reported from the Ceatec electronics show in Japan that the show was devoid of any 3D tech.

3D TV sale are healthy. But there are reports that people aren’t buying them for the 3D, they’re buying them for the screen size, resolution and internet access . It seems to be a case of people wanting high end TVs and there being few available that don’t have the 3D function. The BBC’s recent 3D Olympic experiment supports this as it was revealed that less than 0.5% of BBC viewers chose the 3D option. And while, according to Sky, 3D TV viewers are increasing, it’s still less than 1% of the total number of TV viewers in the UK. It looks like a lot of people who are choosing not to jump on the 3D wagon.

But here in the UK, with cinemas at least, this choice is being taken away from us. To combat any fall in 3D cinema attendance, the distributors just skew the numbers by decreasing the number of 2D showings available. When Prometheus was released only 30% of prints were 2D. This was followed by Dredd , which had just 29 theatres showing the film in 2D nationwide. And now Resident Evil isn’t showing a single 2D print anywhere in the country.

And it’s not just limiting screenings. The screenings we do get are one a night and usually too early to be convenient. The production companies limit the availability of 2D prints, forcing the 3D format into cinemas whether the paying filmgoer likes it or not. So, people are going to 3D showings and then the companies pat themselves on the back because the 3D shows make all the money. Quite frankly if they took the 3D away and only had 2D the money would still come in, The Dark Knight Rises ’ billion dollar plus box office proves that. But seeing as they’ve spent all this money developing 3D technology, we’re all going to damn well enjoy it, even if it makes us blind.

Just how they’re getting away with this is beyond me. With a survey The Eyecare Trust conducted back in 2010 saying that 12% of the UK population – that’s around 6 million people – have issues with 3D, a number that can only have increased since then, there’s a whole swathe of the population being shut out.

I don’t know about Prometheus or Resident Evil , but there’s been plenty of reaction to the lack of Dredd in 2D on the 2000AD forum and across Twitter and Facebook. I can’t say how much Dredd suffered directly from people staying away because of a lack of 2D, but many have chosen to wait for the DVD release. If a film fails at the box office, like Dredd is doing, it won’t be the 3D that gets blamed. It’ll be the film that failed. Not the format or the tactics of the distributors. They’re going to keep force feeding us 3D and there seems very little is going to stop them.

I’m not expecting 3D to disappear. With Cameron promising more Avatar movies and other big films like the Hobbit trilogy coming in 3D over the next three years, it’s here to stay. All I want, all lots of people want, is the choice to see these films in 2D. To not be excluded and treated unfairly just because I prefer 2D and my other half can’t see 3D. We want our 2D choice back. But the film distributors aren’t going to do that, because if they do they might find that more people choose 2D, and that they can’t have.