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.

Comments closed
    • thorz
    • 9 years ago

    At least you can enjoy a movie in 3D if you like to. For some obscure reason I cannot see the 3D effect in these movies. There is something wrong with my vision that doesn’t let me see the thing. I can perfectly enjoy a 2D film without any problems.

    I just hope that this 3D stuff is not going to become a standard (now you find TVs, PC monitors, PC games…) because if it does then I am screwed, or at least I hope that there will still be 2D productions for all the new releases, not just 3D ones.

    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    Didn’t show up.

    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    Didn’t show up..

    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    Didn’t show up…

    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    Yeah, I agree the new 3D stuff is utter BS. My friends were eating it up, but going to the theater and watching ‘How to train a dragon’ in 3D actually detracted from the experience. I found myself wanting to watch it in 2D and becoming grossly annoyed with the double vision and how characters became flat upon turning upon their axis to the screen.

    Don’t get me wrong, from what I heard the 3D for that movie was really well done and I saw the merits of it as when the dragon fell in the water the water droplets flew to towards the audience light a shotgun blast and burrowed into the back of my brain. It made me want to vomit.

    Honestly I wont buy this crap till the images are actually inside my head. When the 3D environment is actually 3D and not some hyped up version of red and blue glasses.

    I will say I do so enjoy a IMAX though. That is something that can’t be conveyed simply by readjusting the projectors in back.

    And, yes, movies have always been a bad value proposition and I’ve often compared them to games myself, but video games have always been a really good deal for the amount of entertainment you get out of them.

    • ozymandias
    • 9 years ago

    The nice thing about paying $15 for a movie, is that it makes other entertainment more interesting.

    e.g.

    Normal cinema ticket: 9 €
    3D/Long movie: 11€

    Real theater, with real actors: 8-10 € (children’s plays, but more for some more serious stuff. Even then, 15€ will give you a ticket)
    Opera: 20 €
    Concert (classical): 12-20€

    For the latter price you get:
    * A few people doing their best to give you the best performance.
    * That can interact with the audience
    * You tend to support the locals instead of the RIAA/major production house.
    * No popcorn allowed. No drinks neither, but you can get something in the pause. Which means, no annoyances of your neighbor.
    * If you look angry at your neighbor, he will notice it.
    * REAL 3D. No slipping performance, no headaches due to glasses, and (depending on the quality of the theater and so on) good lighting.

    Personally, I like a movie. But in entertainment value, real theater wins (except for some horrible performances, or when you’re forced to see a Beckett or contemporary play).

    • DTShakuras
    • 9 years ago

    Cyril I hoped you saw the movie at IMAX or else the tickets shouldn’t have costed $30. I don’t know how you’re 3D glasses keep slipping, I wear glasses beneath the 3D glasses and I’m still ok.

    The last 3D movie I saw was The Last Airbender at IMAX and I felt I did not get my money’s worth for 3D effect. With Avatar, you could feel yourself being right there in the 3D scenes, whereas with Airbender it was more like looking at the 3D setting through a pane of glass. I haven’t seen TS3 yet so I don’t know how “3D” it is.

    I know the difference between Avatar and The Last Airbender was that one was shot in 3D while one was converted into 3D. But that doesnt change the fact that IMAX is expensive and the next time I see a movie converted into 3D I’ll probably see it at my local theater instead of IMAX.

    • xzelence
    • 9 years ago

    Get Netflix!

    • Mr Bill
    • 9 years ago

    I think escapism with girlfriend tops game. Unless she likes to game and you play against one another or against another team.

    • a_non_moose
    • 9 years ago

    Well, the secret of movie popcorn is the peanut oil they use to pop it.

    Expensive, but worth it, IMO.

    The “butter” stuff, not sure on that one.

    • link626
    • 9 years ago

    3d = 2 layer 2d, right?

    i don’t see what’s so impressive about that

      • sreams
      • 9 years ago

      You only have two eyes, so you can’t do much more than that with 3D.

      • XaiaX
      • 9 years ago

      No. It’s stereoscopic, so it can be as many “layers” as you want, even infinite. The ones that look like crappy overlays are generally the ones where the 3D effect was added in postprocessing, unlike Avatar or Pixar movies. Since those are essentially just rendered from scratch, there’s as much detail in each of the images as you could possibly want.

      It’s not different than old stereoscopic photography. There used to be 3d viewers where you’d look though a set of glasses that had a pair of images taken from a pair of cameras mounted together, and you’d get a 3d effect from that.

      Honestly, the closest analogy to movie 3d is looking through a wide pair of binoculars. It’s not quite what your brain is used to, but it’s not like you’re looking at some cardboard diorama.

    • swampfox
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve often thought about how much more entertainment/$ I get out of a good game than going to the theater. Probably explains why I rarely go any more. /[

    • HisDivineShadow
    • 9 years ago

    1) Theatres are overpricing themselves into extinction.
    2) Theatres are relying on 3D to save them more than it actually will because 3D’s already in the home. Next year, it’ll be in even more homes. After that, it’ll be everywhere. What will theatres do when its no longer the new hotness?
    3) Theatres need to go smaller, become more intimate and make experiences (with better, brighter projectors) that people want to enjoy, not keep making everything bigger and bigger and dimmer and dimmer and more expensive by the year.
    4) Home theatres will replace theatres. Movie companies need to realize that “the box office receipts” are not the way to measure a movie’s success anymore because its not the way that most people see movies now. They also need to begin de-prioritizing theatres and stop giving them exclusive first crack to movies.
    5) Toy Story 3 seems to have been a response to the concerns that people get headaches from 3d. The Last Airbender was also a response to these concerns. The response is to make 3d virtually unnoticeable. Whats worse than giving me a headache from crosstalk and ghosting while I watch a 3d movie? Giving me a headache because I paid extra to see some limited form of 3d and then not giving it to me in a way I can notice. That’s just plain not giving me what I paid for. And the picture’s darker for my trouble…
    6) Don’t complain about how much you spent at the theatre if you’re foolish enough to buy theatre popcorn and a drink. Even a small drink. Eat before you go. You’ll be as full and have a walletload more money.
    7) It will not be a sad day when theatres are gone and movies are released on disc or pay-per-view for viewing on day 1.

      • MidnightFrost1701
      • 9 years ago

      I definitely agree with points 1-4, and I would add that the gradual decline of “theater manners” has surely hurt a lot. I very rarely go to a theater, and when I do I’ve usually managed to hold off until the movie has hit my local $1 theater. But I always leave thinking that no one (adults or teenagers) has any respect for the rest of the audience anymore. As much as I like the “theater experience,” I literally cannot remember the last time it wasn’t ruined for me by the other moviegoers. It’s a very common fantasy of mine after such trips to somehow get rich enough to buy one of my local theaters and then advertise (and enforce) strict rules about disruptive behavior. As in, an employee sitting through every movie ready and willing to toss out anyone who can’t behave (without a refund). Yes, the extra employees would be more expensive, but I wonder how many of us who have abandoned theaters might come back if we were all but guaranteed a quiet show? Alas, no theater will do it because they’d risk losing their bread and butter–teenagers.

      Also, I’ve been to one theater that had a full menu of “real” food delivered to my seat, as well as a selection of beer and wine. A hamburger and fries was roughly $8 as I recall, which I consider to be quite reasonable for a movie theater.

      Personally, I’m a very big fan of drive-ins, and I really wish they hadn’t gone (all but) the way of the dinosaurs. We had one in my home town, and I thought it was a lot more fun than a regular theater. You can yap at your friends to your heart’s content without disturbing others, easily bring your own food, control the temperature yourself, recline the seats, etc. I understand that the property costs and the difficulty of getting people to buy concessions make drive-ins unsustainable in most cases, but I hope that this little bit of Americana never completely dies out.

        • blubje
        • 9 years ago

        “Alas, no theater will do it because they’d risk losing their bread and butter–teenagers.”

        It’s not true for all theatres; if you live in larger cities, there are often Indie theatres which cater to a slightly different crowd, and often show non-blockbuster (and good) films.

    • wira020
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve only been to the movie theater once this year.. heh, I dont even miss it… usually i just borrow my friend’s dvd or buy 1 myself… movie theater is great for dates but my gf always prefer bowling.. i personally prefer being able to watch it myself and have control of when i’m watching it or how… here, the ticket price only a few bucks cheaper than buying the dvd..

    If 3D is so great, they should have limit it to the theater…

    • 5150
    • 9 years ago

    The only movie I’ve ever seen in 3D was Captian EO, but I’m not sure you can consider that a movie.

      • VILLAIN_xx
      • 9 years ago

      That was also the last good one to feel it was worth seeing! That opening asteroid really seemed in my face (to my memory). Everything else I’ve seen in 3D i forgot was in 3d about 20 minutes into the movie. There was no more showings for the the regular viewing Toy Story 3 in my theater and ended paying up 25 bucks to take the Mama out on Mothers Day.

      Then there’s the awful “flicker” effect that hurts my eyes at the theater. At least with the home theater it controls the flickering with the goofy looking battery powered glasses.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 9 years ago

    You are lucky if you can get popcorn for 6 bucks. It costs 15 bucks for a large popcorn and a large soda where I live.

      • travbrad
      • 9 years ago

      That’s where all the profit comes from for the theaters unfortunately, as the movie studios charge so much for the film that they barely break even when you just buy a ticket and see the movie. I’m not saying they are completely blameless, but the movie studios share some of the responsibility for it.

      Of course people complain about the exorbitant prices then still order a drink and popcorn, so why would they lower the prices?

    • d0g_p00p
    • 9 years ago

    The only movie I saw in 3D that impressed me was How to Train Your Dragon. The 3D was crisp and amazing. See if you can find a Real3D showing of that.

    • Jypster
    • 9 years ago

    Saw Avatar in 3D and really was not impressed at all for the same reason you state.. oh and I thought it was a load of rubbish as well. Pretty much swore never to bother with the 3D gimick again.

    A couple weeks ago the wife conned me into going to see the second match of State of Orgin (Rugby League) in 3D at the theatre (live telecast) and it was great, almost as good as being there at the grounds. I was very impressed and we are conisdering a 3D TV now just for the footy

    • Flying Fox
    • 9 years ago

    You pretty much sum up a big reason why the content MAFIAA is losing the war: we have more alternative forms of entertainment to compete for people’s money. And the cost of of those alternatives are actually lower. Simple economics: For those people who are indifferent whether they want to see a movie or play a game session (to them they are substitutes), price is going to dictate their choice.

    Then there is alternative formats. As stated in more than 1 comment here a lot of people are growing to love watching movies on DVD/BD at home. Of course the box office is not going to do so well (not that they are doing bad with all the price increases, but some blockbusters are still making record high numbers).

    It seems in their so-called war on piracy they always conveniently forget about this underlying demographic change.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 9 years ago

    On opening night I went to see Toy Story in 3D at the Imax screen. A giant “meh” to the 3D, I felt like I wasted the $5 premium. The next night went to see Toy Story on a regular screen. The colors were brighter and I didn’t have to wear those arsine glasses. 2D for the win.

    Here’s a little pie chart about the time spent watching a movie in 3D. good for a chuckle.
    §[< http://cdn-www.cracked.com/phpimages/photoshop/3/6/4/26364.jpg?v=1<]§

      • XaiaX
      • 9 years ago

      In my experience, IMAX is terrible for 3D, because the separation is too much.

      I like watching in a regular theatre, /[

    • sweatshopking
    • 9 years ago

    count me as somebody soulless, i guess. For cartoons, they’re ok, however i took my 6 year old to it, it scared the F out of her. Why is he so sinister? why does he get his “just desserts” at the end. What’s with all the sex in the movie? idk, but i didnt think that was a “family movie” more like an “older kids 10+ to adults” film. with the exception of wally, i haven’t seen a pixar film i particularly liked.

      • cegras
      • 9 years ago

      Sex? What sex?

        • khands
        • 9 years ago

        Sounds to me like he’s talking about Avatar.

          • cegras
          • 9 years ago

          Ken and Barbie … are Ken and Barbie. Their product image, in my opinion, is entirely devoid of sex but is based on consumerism.

          As for Avatar … I really don’t remember prominent sex scenes. Someone remind me, if there were any?

            • Meadows
            • 9 years ago

            It was heavily implied but I don’t think it was shown.

            • HisDivineShadow
            • 9 years ago

            There was that sex scene at the tree of whispers where the machines later rolled over everything. This was the scene where whatshisface’s avatar nearly got trampled because Ripley was nagging him to eat some potatoes and take a shower and he was wanting to get back online to avatarcyber with his Pandora honey.

            • XaiaX
            • 9 years ago

            Uh, soulless comment was explicitly about Pixar films, and the post mentions that directly, so it’s obviously about Toy Story 3.

            As such, somebody is clearly a /[

          • balzi
          • 9 years ago

          he can’t be talking about Avatar coz he said it was to do with Pixar, but I agree – how can he be talking about Toy story? possible the ambiguous gay tendencies (ambiguous b/c its probably just emphasizing the fact that he’s a “girl’s toy”).

      • Sargent Duck
      • 9 years ago

      Don’t ever watch Toy Story 1, Syd was by far much more dastardly.

      #14 Cegras, maybe he’s talking about Ken/Barbie?

      • demani
      • 9 years ago

      Wait- there’s 3D animated sex in Toy Story 3? Are you sure you didn’t see the Vivid version instead of the Pixar version?

    • tanker27
    • 9 years ago

    3D SUCKS AND IS A GIMMICK!

    Ok got that off my chest. I would be more apt to see TS3 in 3D than some other live action flick. for me its because I had to fight to see the 3D. In Avatar it took me till the half way point before I totally relaxed and could see the 3D easily. But lo an behold something happen outside of the movie and I would focus on it thus messing up the movie…fighting again to see it in 3D. Arrrrggggg

    It easier to relax an focus on a animated film, especially a Pixar film. (And yes those of you that hate Pixar films are really without a soul)

    Oh and after Avatar….I had a pounding headache. Really

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    Don’t understand the appeal of paying markups for entertainment that is available now, as opposed to in /[

    • Spurenleser
    • 9 years ago

    I thought contrast was defined as difference between the brightest point and the darkest point and since the darkest point would ideally be black, which cannot get any darker, the contrast is indeed reduced when wearing 3D glasses, as the bright parts get darker but the darkest parts cannot.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 9 years ago

      I think there is room in this world for both absolute contrast and proportional contrast.

      • XaiaX
      • 9 years ago

      That wouldn’t be true even if that’s what people meant though.

      Since contrast is a ratio, as long as the glasses affect things proportionately, there’d be no change in contrast. 100/1 and 10/.1 are the same. If the darkest parts of the image are truly black, then you don’t have a contrast ratio, because you can’t divide by zero.

      What is often meant by “contrast” is the /[

    • Voldenuit
    • 9 years ago

    The best 3D in movies I’ve seen was in How To Train Your Dragon (incidentally, also the best movie in 3D I’ve seen ;)). Toy Story 3 was essentially the same plot as the first 2 movies, with some calculated sentimentality/emotional manipulation thrown in. It was good, but not 99% on rottentomatoes /[

    • axeman
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve been told the buttery goodness of movie theatre popcorn is coconut oil. Which of course, is probably god awful from a health standpoint but damn tasty.

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      coconut oil isnt actually all that bad as far as eating a bucket of oil goes…

        • BlackStar
        • 9 years ago

        In fact, coconut oil is generally considered quite healthy, as far as oils go.

    • etilena
    • 9 years ago

    went to watch Toy Story 3 and it was a pretty great movie. where I stay we get $10.50 tickets on Tuesdays, when regular prices are around $17. Had a choice between 3D and 2D, and there was no discount for the 3D tickets, at $21. Plus I had to spend an extra $1 for the 3D glasses. Meh. Bought the 2D tickets.

      • RickyTick
      • 9 years ago

      A friend of mine took his wife and 3 kids to see TS 3D and dropped $72 just on admittance. After drinks and popcorn, he was out $110 for less than 2 hours of entertainment.

      I love movies as much as the next guy, but I’ll gladly wait for the disc or Netflix.

    • paulWTAMU
    • 9 years ago

    yeah, I don’t go to theaters much anymore either. Can’t remember the last time I went to in fact. They’re freaking awesome for some movies but at what they cost…

    • bdwilcox
    • 9 years ago

    You basically have to drug me in order to get me to the theater. Yeah, nothing I like more than paying 10+ bucks to have “Head” from So I Married an Axe Murderer sit in front of me, people walking in 10 minutes after the movie started, other people talking through the whole thing, some idiot discussing his awesome new stock trade on his cellphone, and one person trying to be subtle by slowly unwrapping a crinkly cellophane wrapper. I usually leave the theatre mildly violent. Sorry, I’ll wait for it on Blu-Ray and enjoy it at home.

    And 3D can go suck it. Every permutation has given me double-vision and headaches with little to no benefit in experience; and my one friend I watch most movies with is left in the cold because she’s legally blind in one eye. I swear, Hollywood is so bereft of new ideas that they flock to novelties in the hope people won’t notice.

    But $15 for a movie? For that much, a movie should always have a happy ending…

    • MixedPower
    • 9 years ago

    The local theater here sells all matinee tickets for $5.00. Granted I’m not much of a movie person, but I’m not sure why anyone would want to spend much more than that – especially when you can get the movie on Blu-ray a few months later for the price of two normal 3D tickets.

      • kvndoom
      • 9 years ago

      Amen to that! Gonna go see Predators tomorrow morning… for 5 dollars.

      I wear glasses, so 3D is a pain in the ass for me anyway. I watched Avatar the first time in 3D, but when I went again I just watched it regular, and honestly I enjoyed it more that 2nd time. Even minus the discomfort of wearing 2 pairs of glasses simultaneously, I felt I could concentrate on the movie more than just scanning the screen to see what was gonna “pop out.”

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