You may not have known you wanted it, but now you're going to get it. 3D redux is here with its biggest tentpole to date, Disney's $180 million Christmas Carol, followed shortly after by the release of James Cameron's Avatar.
The alleged benefits to the entertainment industry of 3D's latest incarnation are many, if they pan out: 3D supposedly justifies higher ticket prices, 3D projection foils pirates, 3D supposedly turns moviegoing at movie houses into an "event" again. On paper, it's a veritable Manhattan Project solution to all of showbiz's woes. The only people who stand to lose are audiences, who will be forced to dig even deeper into their wallets to shell out more for the up-to-this-point dubious advantage of seeing things float around just in front of the screen.
And there is no guarantee all this will work out. After all the hype, audiences might just decide that the cost of moviegoing has hit a tipping point and they are better off staying home or taking their kids to get messed up on malt liquor in a convenience store parking lot for a fraction the pricetag. If things go that way, a lot of people in Hollywood are going to have a lot of explaining to do.
But this isn't the first time we've been through this. From the dawn of cinema, audiences have had cockamamie inventions foisted on them that were supposed to keep their dollars in the theaters. Some have been wildly successful, most have been disasters. Here's a look back at some of the greats:
Invention: Narrative Film
First Introduced In: 1890's
Alleged Advantage: Instead of just showing pictures of horses running down a track, for instance, films sought to tell a story.
Biggest Drawback: Film pioneers failed to anticipate that by the 1980's, narrative would become obsolete, and viewed as a tactic of artistic imperialism, to be replaced by oblique forms which allow viewers to create their own meanings and rely on indirect referencing to achieve a mise en scene rather than actually telling a story.
Outcome: Had its moment but ultimately doomed by the forces of hipster cinema and post-modern criticism.
Introduced In: The Jazz Singer, 1927
Alleged Advantage: Audiences got to hear Jolson singing "Swanee" while they watched him gesticulating in blackface.
Biggest Drawback: Once we let actors start talking, Lindsay Lohan twittering was only a few steps away.
Outcome: Pray as you might for someone to tell them to put a cork in it, talkies are here to stay.
Invention: 3D 1.0
Introduced In: Made its first breakthrough in the 1950's with films such as Vincent Price's House of Wax.
Alleged Advantage: Extra scary to think the monsters were actually in the room with you.
Biggest Drawback: Once audiences realized, ten movies later, that the monsters weren't actually in the room, the massive headaches brought on by 3D glasses no longer seemed worth the price.
Outcome: The fire died out but a tiny ember remained smoldering and waiting...
Invention: The Tingler
First Introduced In: 1950's for the film The Tingler
Alleged Advantage: Devices placed in seats made audiences fell they were actually being felt up by the onscreen villain.
Biggest Drawback: Being felt up by a screen villain isn't necessarily what one wants in their moviegoing experience.
Outcome: Like most of the gimmicks brought to the movie house by schlock producer William Castle, The Tingler's moment was not to last.
First Introduced In: 1970's disaster films such as Earthquake.
Alleged Advantage: Massive sound effect would make seats and your bones shake with onscreen rumbling.
Biggest Drawback: No one really likes having their bones shake when they are not at a rock concert.
Outcome: Sensurround didn't make it but it's memory lives on in the vision of Michael Bay and the decades of annoyingly loud movies that have followed.
Invention: 3D 2.0
First Introduced In: The Stewardesses in 1970.
Alleged Advantage: A new processing innovation reinvigorated 3D for the zany 1970's. The number "3" was especially advantageous to filmmakers in underscoring the specialness of the third installments of franchises as it was thus used in Jaws 3D, Amityville 3D and Friday the 13th, Part 3D.
Biggest Drawback: Despite the "D" audiences were still stuck watching a third Amityville Horror film.
Outcome: Again the flame died, but the fire was never extinguished.
Invention: Web Driven Production
First Introduced In: Snakes on a Plane, 2006
Alleged Advantage: Popular netsroots outcry spurred filmmakers to tailor the film, then in progress to the needs of their audiences, inserting extra nudity and swearing.
Biggest Drawback: Once fanboys on the internet are given any actual power, the collapse of modern civilization can not be far behind.
Outcome: After all their noise, the fanboys tired of their plaything before it made it to market. Snakes grossed a mere $34 million giving it the most off-kilter hype to grosses ratio in film history.