PSA: Now 3-D is Even Ruining 2-D Movies

PSA: Now 3-D is Even Ruining 2-D Movies

May 23, 2011

The number of people who legitimately love 3-D movies is dwindling these days (our own Scott Weinberg is more than happy to watch the fad fade), but at least 3-D is still mostly escapable.  Unless a movie was filmed exclusively in 3-D, chances are there is a theater in your town that's showing it in 2-D.  And that's great for those who don't like to wear a pair of bulky glasses whenever they watch a movie, but, according to a piece from The Boston Globe online, even if you see a movie in 2-D, even if it has no 3-D counterpart, it may be suffering the dregs of 3-D presentation all the same.

You know the 3-D symptoms: a significantly dimmer picture and muddled colors.  It's caused by the fact that 3-D isn't projected the same way that normal 2-D is.  It requires special, polarized lenses to project alternating layers of the image, which the glasses then merge together for your viewing (dis)pleasure.  In the cases of a lot of movie theaters, the image in question is being projected by a Sony 4K digital projector, which unlike its competitors Christie and Barco, requires a special, removable lens to project 3-D.  However, as the Boston Globe uncovered, theater protectionists aren't always removing the 3-D lens when projecting 2-D content.  This extra lens gobbles up around 50 percent of the projected light, in turn infecting 2-D with 3-D's maladies.

From their article:

"That’s dark enough for Hollywood director Peter Farrelly to complain loudly when his comedy “Hall Pass’’ had its promotional screening in two of the Common’s theaters prior to opening this past February. Farrelly went from one screening where the 3-D lens had been removed to a second in which the lens was still on, and he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“I walked into the room and I could barely see, and my stomach dropped,’’ the filmmaker said. “The first screening looked spectacular and the second was so dark, it was daytime versus nighttime. If they’re doing this for a big screening, I can’t imagine what they do for regular customers. That’s no way to see a movie.’’"

The reason theaters aren't removing the lenses is a simple one: it costs money. Trained, experienced protectionists are the ones who should be making the swap and unfortunately theater managers have been reducing their protectionist staff these days to save money. Since more and more movie theaters are abandoning film projection and going all digital, the workload and experience level involved in projecting a movie is considerably lighter. Unless you're projecting 2-D material on a 3-D equipped projector, that is, in which case firing your best people is coming back to bite you in the ass.

Is it causing people to stop buying tickets to 2-D movies? No, not unless you've got a keen eye for projection quality. Most people probably can't tell that they've paid good money for a crappy movie watching experience-- they probably think it's just the movie's fault. It's not, though. It's entirely preventable. It costs more, sure, but that's on the theater. There's no excuse for them to charge higher ticket prices for a lesser theater experience. So, next time you go to see a 2-D movie and there's just something not quite right about the way it looks, odds are it's the theater's fault and you're more than justified in demanding a refund.

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