Five Reasons to Look Forward to 3D Re-releases

As I see it, we've had a few distinct changes in the film industry in the aftermath of Avatar. First, studios rushed to "create" 3D films through post-conversion. Some worked, many did not. Next, we began to see films shot using 3D cameras. These have been better received, but still have their critics. The third effect of Avatar (spurred again by James Cameron with Titanic) was the beginning of efforts to remaster films in 3D and release them in theaters. This has been most controversial result of the 3D movement. Detractors see this as a cash grab and unnecessary (if not damaging to the legacy of a film).

Most of those I talk to fail to see the point of reworking an movie in 3D. Understandably, most are cynical or ambivalent. 

Those critics are looking a gift horse in the mouth. 

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely understand the criticisms of 3D. The extra depth can help you feel immersed in a film, but that is not always the case. At best, you hardly notice something that you paid a $3 up-charge for. But even if you accept 3D in new releases, applying it retroactively can be a tough pill to swallow. I'm a believer that in most circumstances, we should see a film the way the director intended (Star Wars is an exception).  


So why would I advocate 3D releases of classic films? 

I'll take whatever I can get in order to see these films in theaters again. I wasn't particularly excited about The Phantom Menace being released in 3D, but I was excited to think about the chance to see the original films on the big screen again. I paid to see The Phantom Menace in 3D because I'm still happy to see any Star Wars film in theaters, but I also viewed it as a down payment on the rest of saga. Now that Disney has canceled this project, I applaud their focus, but hope for another chance to see The Empire Strikes Back in the multiplex.

For some, this is a chance to see films for the first time. Many of us discover films far after their theatrical run. For those that are fans of the theatrical experience, it can be exciting to get another chance to catch something you missed, or experience a classic that predates you. Lets also think of the kids. Wouldn't it be cool to introduce your children to Back to the Future as part of a special one-week-only run at theaters? I think so. 

It's a revenue stream for theaters. My wife and I went to see Monsters Inc. in 3D about 6 weeks after it was released. The Pixar film is one of her personal favorites, and it was our first chance to go together. For some time, the theater had only been showing Monsers Inc. in matinees, freeing up screens for newer releases in the evenings. That wasn't a problem, as our afternoon showing had a good turnout of families (perhaps 3 dozen people were in attendance). As I understand it, most theaters keep more profits from tickets the farther a film gets from opening weekend. Classic films (particularly family friendly ones) can have more staying power and help provide income while keeping screens available for new releases in the evening. Remember that most theaters have been struggling, which has led to closings and expensive popcorn.

It helps justify the expense to remaster a film for Blu-ray. Ok, I'm going to cheat here, but the example still applies. Just before the Indiana Jones films were released on Blu-Ray, Raiders of the Lost Ark was released in IMAX nationally. It was only available for a couple of weeks and I never saw marketing for it. The IMAX version grossed over $3 million. That doesn't sound like much, but an extra few million can help offset the costs of remastering our favorite films. When The Wizard of Oz was released on Blu-ray, I read so much about the 4K transfer that I would have gladly paid to see it on a screen big enough to show the detail.  Remastering classic films can be a risky expense for studios, and a little extra revenue from the box office might be enough to justify the cost. 

Re-releases are great filler for slow times in the schedule. Many of these 3D releases take place on slow weekends (because they can't compete with exciting new releases). You may object to the third dimension being applied to Jurassic Park, but it will likely be a better choice than anything else you see as you stand in line at the box office in early April.

I'll admit that my points have nothing to do with the 3D involved with such a re-release. I'm advocating that we put up with the minimal tinkering in order to gain the benefit of seeing the film in any format.

In some cases, a non 3D version is also made available. Go see that. If you have a choice and don't like 3D, vote with your wallet. My main point is that If you don't have a theater that regularly shows classic movies, 3D can be a great excuse to revisit one of your favorites.

The 3D conversion is likely unnecessary.

The studio may just be out to collect more money.

You may already have two copies of the film on your shelf.

Stop whining. Give in. Get in line.