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Feature: 3-D

August 17, 2011 12:02 p.m.

A look at the history of 3-D and how San Diegans are reacting to the new 3-D technology.

Related Story: Rants and Raves: Filmgoers Talk About 3-D


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

KPBS-FM Radio Feature: 3D Movies
By Beth Accomando
Air date: August 17, 2011

A pair of 3-D films opened over the weekend. In the next two weeks "Conan the Barbarian" and "Fright Night" will both open in 3-D. KPBS reporter Beth Accomando looks back at how 3-D started and how San Diegans are reacting to the latest 3-D technology.

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Tag: San Diego-based Legend 3D worked on "Conan the Barbarian," which opens this Friday throughout San Diego.


Trailer: It's the unforgettable African adventure story that made screen history.

In 1952 "Bwana Devil" promised to put a lion in your lap and a lover in your arms with a new technology called "Natural Vision 3 Dimension." This ushered in a golden age of 3-D with titles like "It Came From Outer Space" and "House of Wax."

Trailer: Now there's someone with a bag of popcorn. Hold your mouth it's the bag I'm aiming at.

Even Alfred Hitchcock succumbed to 3-D with "Dial M for Murder." That's because Hollywood was reacting to the threat of television and was bracing itself for a decline in movie attendance as people enjoyed entertainment in the comfort of their homes. But television didn't bring the demise of the movie theater, and such gimmicks were reduced to the occasional novelty over the following decades. In recent years, however, state of the art digital technology has ushered in a new boon in 3-D movies. In 2010, "Avatar" raked in $2 billion in international grosses, solidifying Hollywood's interest in the format.

Over the weekend, 4 of the top 10 box office draws were films available in 3-D, including the horror sequel "Final Destination 5."

Trailer: Help me!

Miguel Rodriguez is a podcast horror host who lives in San Diego. He saw the film opening day and didn't mind paying the extra bucks to see it in IMAX 3-D.

MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ: "Final Destination" knows it's a gimmick, the entire film franchise is one big gimmick so in that case it fits, it's a perfect marriage.

Josue Guerrero of Spring Valley thinks 3-D can be a fun gimmick but that it cheapens the horror genre.

JOSUE GUERRERO: It's kind of like a cop out, instead of having to build this tense story and it's like, "Boo!" I'm gonna scare you I'm gonna pop out of this corner right here with a big metal pipe and drive it through your brain.

Forest Batson is another San Diegan who chose to pay extra for "Final Destination 5" in 3-D. He says the technology has greatly improved from the old stereoscopic 3-D and its cardboard glasses with blue and red cellophane lenses. But he'll only seek out films actually shot in 3-D.

FORREST BATSON: Yeah, I will avoid a movie if I've heard that it's a conversion because if I'm going to pay that extra amount of money I certainly don't want pay it for something that was not genuinely shot in 3-D.

Films can now be shot with digital 3-D cameras or converted from 2-D to 3-D and that makes a difference to audiences says Harry Medved of the online ticketing company Fandango.

HARRY MEDVED: We did a survey asking movie goers if they are more inclined to see a movie in 3-D if it's actually shot that way and the majority say yes. And that's why "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" did so well with 50% of its ticket sales were in the 3-D format.

That amuses Barry Sandrew, founder and COO of the San Diego based company Legend 3D. His company did 78 minutes of 2-D to 3-D conversion on Michael Bay's "Transformers 3."

BARRY SANDREW: Michael Bay didn't want to have the audience to prejudge the film as a converted film so he was going on saying well only 25% was converted. When in reality well over half of it was converted, and 52% of it was converted by us. We were reading all of these critics saying that the reason it was so good was that it was shot in 3D, I love that because obviously it wasn't and people are prejudging these movies based on critics who don't know what they are talking about.

But as more 3-D movies come out viewers like Josue Guerrero are getting more picky.

JOSUE GUERRERO: I enjoy it when it's more subtly used and stuff. Like I saw "Toy Story 3" in 3-D and I enjoyed it because it's not like they were trying to pop things out at you.

Fandango's Medved agrees.

HARRY MEDVED: Thankfully in more recent films like "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" or "Captain America," you don't have so many gimmicks with people throwing things at the camera, it's more immersive and it's more a part of the story and I think that's what moviegoers are looking for. 3-D is just one more way to tell a story, it's gotta be a good story and it can't just be a gimmick like a lion in your lap back from the 50s.

And it may have more permanence than the 3-D of the 50s says Forrest Batson.

FORREST BATSON: I don't think that it will fade away because they've invested too much in 3-D television and with the major directors promoting it the way that they are I think that there will always be a place for it but do I think that it's going to continue to become more and more popular, no I don't.

"Conan the Barbarian," which Legend 3D worked on, will open Friday and 3-D ready televisions will be coming at ya this Christmas.

For KPBS News, I'm Beth Accomando.