Audiences in 3D? Boo!
Alice in Wonderland finally arrived at the Mission: Tiki Drive-In Theater in Montclair, California last weekend. Much to my dismay, it was only being presented in glorious shades of 2D digital. The Mission: Tiki is a state of the art outdoor cinema. Because of that, their revolutionary screens, which are capable of providing an in-theater picture, aren't easily moved. It cost a lot of money to get them in the ground, but the arena isn't conducive to our new 3D technologies. While the modern day Drive-In is experiencing a strong resurgence, there isn't enough of a demand to convert the present screens over. The Drive-In theater screen needs to be white to project a clean frame to all areas of the car lot. The silver screen, which is needed to support 3D imagery, would cut the viewing peripheral by at least twenty-five percent. Add to this the night sky, the near-by street lights, and the oncoming train, a lot of cars aren't going to see the film at all, let alone in 3D, if these screens are converted to silver. (Granted, a lot of folks parked at the far corners of the Drive-In aren't necessarily there to see the movie anyway; but when that last slurp has been dripped from the side door, those nasty sex fiends will want something to watch too.)
What difference does it make? Why not just see Alice in Wonderland or Avatar at the multiplex? Well, because the Drive-In Theater is the only true place film fans can go on opening weekend to experience the magic of modern day cinema without having to deal with the rudeness of the encroaching audience that surrounds them. The Drive-In is a wonderland where seat kickers and isle talkers don't exist. If you'd like to add a running commentary to your movie without anyone telling you to shut up, you can do that here, too. Most importantly, you can sip whiskey, beer, or wine and toke a joint and not have to worry about getting kicked out of the theater. Have you ever caught a buzz while watching a 3D movie? No? Well, you probably won't be able to for a while. As none of the currently operating Drive-In theaters across the country are in a hurry to install these precious silver screens. It costs too much money and it's not worth the effort.
Pundits have been arguing about the stability of 3D in the market place since the precipice of this new technology arrived in tact. It was a passing fad in the 50s and in the 80s, but it hasn't ever stuck around long. Now that Alice and Avatar have proven financially capable of turning a green profit, every studio is jumping on the bandwagon. Films that were never meant to be in 3D are getting converted, and a lot of this stuff is pure, unfiltered garbage. It doesn't matter if it's in 2D, 3D, CGI, or on videotape. It's the storytelling that matters, and some of these stories belong in the dumpster. You could go back and forth about the usefulness of 3D all day long. It adds depth. It gives movies a much-needed jolt of electricity. It turns a flat, warm, uncarbonated soda into a zippy sip of mouth burning fun juice. Ordinary dramas are turned into literal roller coaster rides! Whoop-doo!
The selling points have been screamed loud and clear across our public consciousness. And Avatar looked fucking cool, especially in IMAX. This is an experience we're not going to get at home (yet). The carnival barkers are making good on their promises to entertain us in a revolutionary new light. Going to the cinema is once again becoming an "event". Because this experience is so grand, most theater chains have doubled their ticket price. Which sucks, because the truth of the matter is, and this is something that hasn't been advertised or talked about at all, audiences are the same old shitty group of loud and obnoxious individuals they were before. It doesn't matter what format the film has arrived in.
The first couple seconds of seeing Avatar in 3D is pretty neat, you think to yourself. Until the guy behind you starts giving actual voice to your thoughts. Then the too-cool-for school hipster starts chiming in with his musings. None of which are amusing. Then the kid behind you starts kicking your seat. Then, not to be racist, but the black chick near the front starts screaming about blue people, and you have to wonder why you've paid extra money for this pain and torture. Just because the screen is shooting towards your face at the speed of light doesn't mean you'll get lost in the fantasy of it. It's hard to fully immerse yourself in one of these fantastical new worlds when the old man to the left of you is unwrapping a pocket full of Werther's Originals and the ninety-year-old bag to your right is coughing bits of bloody lung into her hand and all over your popcorn. Why, again, do I want to pay extra money for that? I don't.
3D hasn't revolutionized the cinema "going" experience at all. Half the time, as quite evident with Alice in Wonderland, these new three-dimensional landscapes are flat and headache inducing. It's hard to endure them, and I would have been better off seeing this dud at the drive-in. Mainly because the audience still hasn't learned how to behave. 3D isn't the cure all that is going to fix that. If James Cameron truly wants to revolutionize the cinematic experience, he would create stand alone, volume controlled booths within the theater auditorium. Until then, I'll continue to hit the Drive-In, 3D or no 3D. Because today's 3D audience sucks? And there's nothing George Lucas, James Cameron, Tim Burton, or any other artistic auteur can do about it.
Eat food! Kill grandma!