The Future of 3-D Movies According to an Old Man

3D Kid

Eighty-one-year old Fred Cohen, owner of Poughkeepsie’s Overlook Drive-In movie theater, is either clairvoyant or a crotchety old man. He offered his assessment of 3-D movies in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal and it ain’t pretty:

“I’ve been in this business long enough to see it fail once. And I’ll be in it long enough to see it fail again.”

The jury is still out on how much longer Fred will have to wait.


  • DonaldC

    Man Amid, you really hate 3D.

    • amid

      Not as much as Fred Cohen.

      • DonaldC

        To me, he seems more dismissive.
        The article seems to mention the lack of 3D in the drive in as an afterthought.
        Cohen comes off as thinking that it would be too much effort to bother with the novelty of stereoscopic displays that fall into hibernation every 10 to 20 years.

        At least from my perspective.

  • Peter H

    I think the trouble with stereoscopic visuals is that in real life we only use stereoscopic vision when we actively need to intercept our surroundings – pick up an object, catch a moving target, jump a gap, etc. The rest of the time we suppress the information in favour of generalised monoptic overview of our surroundings. This is why we can usually view and interpret photographs and paintings without difficulty or confusion.

    3D images tend to surprise us with ‘too much’ information – until the brain learns to disregard it. Hence, although it can give an enhanced sense of reality, and can be very spectacular, it is not really an essential element in visual story-telling. Never mind the question “do you dream in colour?” – ask yourself “do I dream in 3D?”.

    • s.w.a.c.

      This is exactly what happens with me at 3D movies, after a half-hour or so, I don’t really see the effect anymore, and most movies seem to avoid the kind of “lion in your lap” effect that was so easily parodied by John Candy’s Dr. Tongue, so the atmospheric aspect of it just doesn’t work after a while. All I’m left with is a pair of annoying glasses on my head and a dimmer image for me to watch.

      Then there’s the varying degree of 3D quality; the effect worked fairly well in Fright Night, but in the new Conan, the 3D was useless most of the time and didn’t enhance the viewing experience in any way (and it could have used some enhancing). A lot of the time I’d take off my glasses, and see that there really wasn’t any 3D happening at all in a given shot, which seems to be the case with this pick-and-choose post-production digital 3D that most features use these days.

  • Mike

    I don’t know, it seems to me that the potential for 3-d is growing with technology. With personal devices like the 3ds and 3d phone screens that don’t require glasses becoming more common and inexpensive, I think it all depends on when the youth embrace it, probably when it’s cheap enough. It seems likely that it will one day be just another feature of whatever screen display we look at and people that don’t like it will be considered old fashioned, like preferring black and white to color. Color came to movies first before it became affordable for all entertainment, I just think it has taken longer for 3-D tech to become affordable. I’m not saying 3-d is better, just that it seems likely to be standard in the future.

    • tom

      But they are not necessarily successful. Nintendo have even admitted that they placed too much emphasis on the 3D aspect of the 3DS, as most people just believe it to be of the regular DS range except with added 3D capabilities (rather than an entirely new console with new processors, etc)

      If only film makers were ready to admit the same thing, but I guess that they’re still making money out of it.

    • Matthew K Sharp

      It took quite a bit of technological faffing about before colour started to take hold in the movies in the late 1930s. There’d been a good 15 years or so of audiences not being particularly impressed with colour films, due mainly to the shortcomings of the Technicolor 2-colour process and other similar processes which tended to give you not full colour but red, green and a wide array of attractive browns.

      I feel we’re still at that point with 3D. It’s tricksy enough to make an impression in the occasional movie, but a long way from being satisfactory enough to be adopted as an industry standard. We’re now only seeing the third dimensional equivalent of a wide array of browns rather than a full colour spectrum.

  • 2011 Adult

    Then I have something to look forward to! Yay!

    Otherwise, he’s now got people betting on when he’ll die.

  • Frank Rocco

    I’m not really a cheerleader for 3D. I’ve seen it done well at times and other times it’s given me a headache. But, even if 3D fades into the cinematic sunset it wouldn’t have been a failure. The attraction of 3D seems to have helped the animation industry remain healthy through a rough economic time and for that alone it would have been a successful undertaking.

  • Marvin Woodside

    The best use of the 3D process was in the 1971 movie “The Stewardesses”, and it wasn’t even a stereo track.

  • Ethan

    I look at the top 10 box office of all time, and it’s all 3d, except the few which came out before 3d was available. It’s good business, they charge what people will accept to pay. I am worried about the psychotic character trait “If I don’t like it, that choice shouldn’t exist”, but if you were forced to see it in 3d, this hatred would be reasonable and I’d be angry to. The way it is right now, it’s not important, it’s not impactful.

    The 90′s discussion about traditional animation versus CGI was a very good discussion, it had far reaching impact on the industry and the lives of everyone working in it. However this crusade against 3d is a stupid discussion, there’s isn’t that much impact on the production. They’re making money. Both 2d and 3d representations are shown. You can choose. Who cares?

    It’s sadly ironic that the films with the worst 3d have the highest attendance ratio for 3d representations. But there an entropic factor here because animated films always had much better 3d than live action, the demographics are very different.

    Hey, speaking of box office, Amid didn’t mention the weekend box office? An animated film reached an important milestone on Friday. It made money whether you like it or not ;-)

  • ZiggyStardust

    I still haven’t seen a movie in 3d and i dont really care too

  • philippe

    It seems like sculpture isn’t better than bas-relief wich in turns is not better than flat drawing. They serve different ranges of expression.

    2D drawing relies more on the concept and necessitate more activity from the viewer, includes him more in the making of the image while viewing it (kind of like the game connect the dots).

    3D and live film relies more on a work of substraction, the viewer neglecting a whole range of elements in the frame to ease his viewing.

    If the film director of a 3D or live film is a graphist (or has only one eye) he allready substracts during the actual shooting. Giving us his vision in a more concentrated form. Great directors are often great graphists.

    But most important, the right technology and means should be used for the appropriate subjects, we’re far from this!! right Tintin?