It took 15 weeks for “Titanic” to sink from the number one spot in the box office. With today’s film climate, this remarkable feat will never happen again. I mean, hell, when “Titanic” reached its 14th consecutive week it broke a record that was previously held by “Tootsie” and “Beverly Hills Cop.” Can you imagine mediocrity like that ever having that kind of staying power today? These days, you are lucky to get even two weeks at the top of the box office.
I bring this up because this weekend, “Dear John,” another film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ teenage angst and hormone-driven novels, knocked “Avatar” from the No. 1 spot, a position James Cameron’s latest film had held for seven weeks. It’s no 15, but to last that long nowadays is quite the accomplishment. The greater accomplishment, though, is the fact that Cameron now holds the one and two spots in the all-time domestic and box office grosses with “Avatar” and “Titanic,” respectively. Yet, when talking about “Avatar’s” more than $2.2 billion worldwide gross, you can’t help mentioning the elephant in the room — the increased cost of a 3-D ticket.
About 70 percent of “Avatar’s” grosses have come from 3-D ticket buyers, a ticket that can reach upward of $18 in some theaters. Basically, we better hope the economy picks up soon because from the looks of it we are going to start seeing a lot more 3-D films hitting theaters.
One of the main reasons for this increase is the simple fact that studios limited 3-D’s potential for years. Back in the day of flimsy red and blue paper glasses, 3-D was primarily used for horror and thriller films to have scenes where Jaws could jump out at you. It was rarely used to enhance the movie as a whole, but instead as an opportunity to have cheap sideshow thrills. This isn’t the case anymore, though. Sure, some horror films still use 3-D for this purpose, but somewhere down the line studio heads realized they could do a lot more things and make a lot more money if they started thinking outside of the box.
Take “Avatar” for example. Never do you have robotic arms reaching out at you or arrows whizzing by your head. Instead, Cameron uses 3-D to make Pandora seem like more than just a mystical CGI wonderland. In the process, he not only demonstrated the enormous potential of 3-D films, but also created new technology that is going to make shooting a 3-D film only that much easier in the future.
But it’s not just big-budget blockbusters like “Avatar” that are cashing in. When Pixar released “Up” last summer, it was its first film presented in Disney Digital 3-D. After making more than $700 million at the box office, you can guarantee it won’t be its last. In fact, Pixar already plans to release its next four films in 3-D, including “Toy Story 3″ this summer — thankfully, it had the decency to spare us from a clich?d “Toy Story 3-D” title, a decency “Step Up 3-D” neglected. Also coming out this year from Disney are Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” “Rapunzel” and “Tron Legacy”
But Disney isn’t only sticking to releasing new movies under its 3-D brand. It has also started a trend of re-releasing old films in 3-D. To help promote the upcoming sequel, Pixar brought “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2″ back to theaters as a limited run 3-D double feature. Disney also plans to give “Beauty and the Beast” the 3-D treatment in 2011 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the film’s release.
Film studios aren’t the only ones looking to take advantage of the 3-D dollars, though. Companies like Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic and Sony plan to bring homes into the third dimension when they release 3-D HDTVs later this year. Although glasses will still be necessary, you will be able to watch 3-D films like “Avatar” as they were made to be and not the watered down version you get with the red and blue glasses that DVDs currently provide. Panasonic also plans to release the first ever 3-D camcorder this fall for aspiring filmmakers with $21,000 to burn.
With these new opportunities to make money opening up, it’s going to become more and more difficult for film producers and directors to ignore 3-D possibilities. The number of 3-D films released is already steadily increasing each year. Sure, there may never be a day when 50 percent of the films in theaters are showing in 3-D — no one is dying to see “Schindler’s List” re-released in 3-D — but 3-D films are certainly going to start making up a decent-sized chunk of the box office.
And why not? If the opportunity for more cash is there, what studio isn’t going to take it, especially if technology continues to improve and shooting in 3-D becomes easier and easier. Cameron put it best in an interview with “Entertainment Weekly” in which he responded to whether he plans on ever making a 2-D film again with a simple, “Why would I do that?” At this rate, “Titanic 3-D” will be making its way to theaters before you know it.
Tony Lewis is a senior majoring in journalism and legal studies. Think “Titanic’s” ending will still suck in 3-D? Let him know at [email protected]