It’s been 13 years since Avatar was released in theaters, earning over $2.8 billion, making it the highest grossing movie of all time. It inspired an entire area in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Pandora — The World of Avatar (which is celebrating its 5th Anniversary soon, by the way), and since the initial movie’s release, many have been eagerly waiting for information about its sequel.
We recently got to see the teaser trailer for the new movie, Avatar: The Way of Water, and when it is released, James Cameron is hoping to reintroduce a dying film medium: films in 3D.
When the first Avatar movie was released in 2009, it showed the promise of the 3D film medium. Though there were some films released in 3D before it, for many movie fans, Avatar might have been the very first movie they truly saw in 3D in theaters.
Following Avatar‘s release, there was a whole wave of movies — no matter the film or genre — released in 3D. Some of these films were converted to 3D in a more rushed manner. This led to worsening experiences for moviegoers. By 2017, movies were only earning 17% of their revenue from showings in 3D, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The medium was one that many had “written off,” even before the impacts of COVID-19 on the theater industry. But Disney is hoping to bring it back.
Megan Colligan, president of Imax Entertainment, shares that “Warming up 3D has to be done thoughtfully and carefully.” The issue with the movie industry in the early 2010s was that movies were being converted to 3D even if they weren’t filmed or produced with 3D in mind.
Jon Landau, James Cameron’s producing partner at Lightstorm Entertainment, said “there’s a period of time where people felt that converting something to 3D made it a better movie; 3D does not change the movie, 3D exacerbates whatever the movie is…a filmmaker needs to bring a sensibility of how to use that to enhance the narrative storytelling.”
James Cameron, the director of the original Avatar movie and its sequel, understands this format, according to Colligan, and he’s aiming to bring it back by making seeing Avatar 2 in 3D an entire experience.
Luckily, technology has improved over the past ten years to help aid Cameron in that quest. For example, 3D glasses can cut down on some lighting, but brighter laser projectors have now been introduced that help the issue.
With the rise of streaming services, the movie industry is looking to make heading to the movie theaters an experience that viewers can’t get at home.
“We are giving people something that they cannot get anywhere else. We need the exhibition community to be supportive of that and to understand that we are competing with different technologies than are in people’s homes,” said John Landau.
Disney’s chief of global film distribution, Tony Chambers, has said, “At a time when people are used to being at home watching content, anything that encourages them to go to theaters has to be a positive for us and the industry in general…It’s all about the experience. If done right, people will come out again and again. The messaging won’t be to see Avatar 2 in 3D but to see it for the experience.”
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness might just prove that 3D isn’t the dying form some think it is. Nearly 10% of moviegoers in North America chose to watch this film in 3D, “an unheard-of jump.” And more movie releases in 3D in the near future could push things further. Disney will be offering Lightyear in 3D, and Universal which will push Jurassic World: Dominion in 3D as well.
3D films also continue to be really popular in certain parts of the world like Brazil and Germany.
Theater owners may also be on board with the revival of 3D, since it can boost their revenue. But, Patrick Corcoran, chief communications officer for the National Association of Theatre Owners warns that 3D is “not the answer to everything but cannot be treated as an afterthought.”
The success of this focus on 3D still remains to be seen, but if Avatar 2 does as well in theaters as its predecessor, it may be time to don those 3D glasses and head to the theater once more.
Avatar: The Way of Water is set to premiere in December of this year. In the meantime, stay tuned to DFB for all the latest news!
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