3D movies and the value of entertainment

To take full advantage of this past long weekend, I unlatched myself from my computer and went to see a movie with my girlfriend. We decided to get tickets for Toy Story 3, since everyone around us had been raving endlessly about it. Besides, what better way to spend a Sunday night than to watch a Pixar flick?

I did admittedly have somewhat of an ulterior motive: I thought this would be a nice chance to see another movie in stereoscopic 3D. Some of you might recall my lengthy diatribe about Avatar (and the subsequent backtracking), but to sum it up, I wasn't too impressed with the 3D aspect of it. As far as I could tell, the funny glasses didn't really add anything to the movie. They even detracted from it in some ways, like by making the picture a little darker and causing occasional double vision. I'd been sitting too close to the screen, though, and wanted to give the 3D thing another shot.

This time, we arrived early, paid our $30, and got nice seats in the middle of the theater. I donned the glasses, being careful not to get popcorn butter on them, and let Pixar work its magic.

As a complete aside, I love that North Americans aren't afraid to consume their popcorn with butter (or whatever that greasy, butter-like substance is). Back on the Old Continent where I come from, movie popcorn comes either salted or covered in caramelized sugar, and the portions are small enough to run out half-way through the movie. It's just not the same.

Mmmm, butter.

So, what about Toy Story 3 in 3D? Well, the hideous RealD goggles worked better this time around, enough for me to retract one of my previous criticisms. Yes, the glasses make the movie darker, but since they make everything else darker, the contrast stays about the same. I didn't get the feeling that the movie was too dark, as with Avatar. Too bad I still got occasional bouts of double vision, but those weren't too bothersome.

What bothered me was that, to an even greater extent than with Avatar, the 3D really failed to make the movie-watching experience much better. I didn't feel much more immersed than when watching a regular movie, and after a while, I largely forgot I wasn't watching a 2D projection. That realization left me even more disappointed this time, since I was expecting my second 3D experience to be a little better. Luckily, Toy Story 3 was otherwise completely awesome, and it strongly reaffirmed my belief that people who don't like Pixar movies have no souls. And they certainly don't deserve delicious buttery popcorn.

I suppose stereoscopic 3D's novelty aspect—getting a little something extra that's not available at home—is kinda neat. Also, there was a much greater number of show times for the 3D version of Toy Story 3 than for the non-3D version, so seeing the former was just more convenient for us. But was it really worth the extra three bucks per ticket? Was it worth fighting to keep the 3D goggles from sliding down the bridge of my nose? Was it worth having to wipe the goggles on my shirt after I finally did manage to get butter on them?

Those are all rhetorical questions, and rather than prattle on about... stereoscopy (is that the right word?), I'm going to segue into something completely unrelated.

Remember how I said our two movie tickets cost $30 put together? I got to thinking while pulling out my credit card and entering my PIN code. Splinter Cell: Conviction, which I finally bought the other day, cost me $40. And so far, I've gotten a good nine hours of entertainment out of it. Even if we halve that to account for the fact that I'm playing it on my own, that's still more than twice as much escapism for 33% more money.

In short, with ticket prices climbing through the roof and PC games holding steady at around $40-50, the movies are starting to seem like a raw deal to me. Maybe that's taking my value-conscious impulses to the limit, but come on. $15 per person for a movie ticket? A movie ticket that entitles me to see the movie only once? And I have to pay an extra six bucks for the buttery popcorn? Unless we're talking about a particularly exciting release, I'd almost rather wait for the film to show up on iTunes or on DVD shelves. I wouldn't really miss the RealD goggles, either.

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