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3D How the Studios, Theatre Owners, and TV Manufacturers All But Killed 3D

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Todd Erwin, Mar 18, 2014.

  1. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Screenwriter
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    Note: Reprint of my article recently published in Home Media Magazine

    When CES 2014 ended, I half-expected to see an obituary for 3D from the press. While some TV manufacturers, such as Vizio, eliminated 3D as a feature on their 2014 models, others (like Panasonic) reduced the number of models with this feature. While the number of 3D movies being released to theatres hasn’t quite diminished, the number of screens and showings has, with some of the smaller exhibitors (36-screen Starlight Cinemas chain in Southern California) getting out of 3D altogether. Some say the nail in the coffin came with Disney’s decision to forego the release of a 3D Blu-ray edition of one of their most successful animated films in years, Frozen. How did we get to this point, and is 3D really dead?

    3D-capable Televisions Arrived Too Late: Samsung and Panasonic debuted their 3D televisions in 2010. The problem was that close to 65% of US households had already upgraded to HDTV, and did not plan on upgrading again for at least another 5 years. It also did not help that most of the early 3D content on Blu-ray were tied up in long-term exclusive deals with TV manufacturers. Avatar, Coraline, and Ice Age 2 were available only if you purchased a Panasonic 3D TV. Dreamworks Animation signed a similar deal with Samsung, bundling Monsters vs. Aliens, How To Train Your Dragon, Megamind, and the Shrek franchise with pairs of Samsung 3D glasses.

    High Cost of Active 3D Glasses With No Universal Standard: When 3D TV’s first arrived at retailers, most sets came with one pair of 3D glasses. Up until the 2013 model year, most Panasonic active 3D sets shipped without glasses. If a customer needed additional pairs, the cost was typically around $100 each. Costs have come down considerably for some manufacturers (Samsung’s glasses sell for $19.99 for battery operated, $49.99 for rechargeable), but Panasonic are still quite high at $69.99. What is worse is that many of the manufacturers, when they introduced a new and improved pair of glasses, they were not backwards compatible with prior model year TVs. Anyone who owns one of the last LG active 3D plasmas is pretty much out of luck if they need new or additional pairs, as those have all but disappeared.

    Public Perception of Limited Content: When I tell people I have a 3D-capable TV, they often ask why I bothered, since there is little to no content. If you look, you will find it. Most people are unaware that Netflix has many movies available in 3D on their streaming service, and that is largely due to the fact that Netflix quietly began offering 3D content, and still offers it rather quietly. As of this writing, Netflix was offering The Croods, Beowulf, Joe Dante’s The Hole, etc. There are over a hundred titles available on 3D Blu-ray (but very few places to rent them). Wal-Mart’s streaming service, VUDU, has several titles available in 3D, as does PlayStation Network. Many cable and satellite services offer pay-per-view movies in 3D. None of this is very well publicized, hence the public perception. One thing that did get a lot of public attention, though, was the announcement of ESPN 3D going off the air, with most 3D naysayers proclaiming it was the public’s rejection of 3D. My opinion is that most people didn’t want to watch that same 2-3 year old football game or boxing match over and over again.

    High Cost of Content: It is understandable that 3D Blu-ray titles, when the format first launched, were around $50. It is nearly 4 years later, and most 3D Blu-rays have remained with an MSRP of $49.99. Granted, most retailers rarely sell a movie at full sticker price, especially during pre-sales and the first week of release. After that, prices typically soar to prices that the public feels a bit out of reach, and that is likely tied to what little margin the retailer gets from the studio. Disney appears to be the largest offender (and not just with 3D titles). Iron Man 3 currently sells on Amazon for $35.99 (it was as low as $31.99 during its debut). The Lion King is $44.99 on Amazon, $29.99 its first week back in October 2011. But, then, there is Disney’s mis-step with the 3D-only Oz the Great and Powerful, which contained no bonus materials whatsoever, yet the 2d version was loaded with bonus material. And, quite recently, Disney has done it again with Frozen, by skipping a 3D Blu-ray release and offering the 3d version on VUDU and PSN only (at a cost of $34.99, again, with no bonus features unless you purchase the 2D/3D bundle for just a dollar more). If you check out Frozen’s Facebook page, and read the comments made by fans, you will see there is quite a high demand for a 3D Blu-ray release, but Disney is keeping quiet on this controversy.

    3D Surcharge at the Local Cineplex: I still do not understand the reason for this, although I used to think it was to pay for the glasses. What is even more confusing is the variance in this surcharge. Most Regal Cinemas locations charge $4.00, as do AMC and Cinemark. But the smaller chains charge a lot less, some as low as $2.00. This surcharge often brings ticket prices in excess of $19.00.

    Finally, Too Many Bad 3D Conversions: I’ve seen some really good 3D conversions of films originally shot in 2D. Nightmare Before Christmas, one of the first films to be converted and released theatrically in the Digital3D format, still stands as one of the best conversions I’ve seen. Star Trek: Into Darkness, Toy Story, and Gravity are in the same category. But then there was the rushed Clash of the Titans, poorly converted to 3D at the 23rd hour by Warner Bros as an attempt to squeeze a few extra bucks out of the box office. Other bad conversions include Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, Man of Steel, John Carter, The Last Airbender, Gulliver’s Travels, and Hoodwinked Too. These films, and many others, soured the 3D experience for many moviegoers, causing fewer screens and showtimes being devoted to 3D and eventually the perception by the studios that the public is now rejecting 3D. What the studios do not understand is that the public is rejecting BAD 3D, since Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hobbit, Gravity, and (quite ironically) Frozen were embraced by true fans of 3D.

    So, is 3D dead? It is definitely in a state of decline, but not out for the count. I prefer to say that 3D is going into hibernation, waiting for James Cameron’s much anticipated Avatar sequels to help give 3D its much deserved comeback. Until then, expect 3D to be on life support, and fans like myself will just have to wait out the storm.
     
  2. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    No, but main point is, we got the obituaries anyway, whether it was dead or not. (Including that old favorite, everyone follow the bouncing ball, "They didn't TELL us about the new 3DTV's this year!" :D Yeah, and they didn't mention new Internet smart-TV features either, go figure.)
    And as far as Disney "foregoing" Frozen as "proof" of so-goes-the-industry, er, might want to check the current appropriate thread for updates...You may be in for a big fat oops around six months from now.

    For all the cliche'd reasons mentioned--theater surcharge, exclusive wars, Clash of the Titans, technology brought on too early after HDTV adoption, etc.--the press still either "expects" 3D to be dead by this point in the plot, or still holds grudges from something they have a personal aversion to buying, and wishes would go away already, just like found-footage horror movies.
    It's not just on the Internet that people rant "Stop it, stop it!--Quit liking something I hate!"
    Oh, if that's what it's waiting for... :P

    (I see what you generally mean, in that we're waiting for another serious-filmmaker Life of Pi or Gravity to show 3D's more universal uses for directors to explore the artistic uses of immersive depth, but might want to get off Cameron as a central metaphor. Avatar the movie, by this point, is just so, so, so, SO, SO over. :D
    There's a current running joke among the Disney Parks fans about their building a major multi-million dollar Avatar attraction at WDW Animal Kingdom, and the fan reactions of "Ohh, in the name of humanity, don't do this to yourselves!...Can't you build something we still LIKE?")
     
  3. FoxyMulder

    FoxyMulder 映画ファン

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    From 2012 onwards there has been a universal standard for 3D glasses, i have Panasonic 3D glasses that work great with my Samsung plasma TV, as for "serious" filmmakers and exploring the immersive depth, forget it, i do not think that is what we need, what i think we need is much more fun with the 3D content, great depth, well of course, but more 3D pop out, less serious ( arty ) use of the format and far more fun and pop out content, that is what will breathe new life into the 3D format.
     
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  4. DavidMiller

    DavidMiller Premium
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    Well I'm sad because I have enjoyed the 3D format even with the clunkiness. If I was in the market for a new Projector/TV I would look for 3D. Unfortunately my 3D TV is misbehaving or the battery in the glasses are finally giving up the ghost. I loved Gravity at least the first half before the glasses died. I have bought a lot of the 3D titles when they have come out. Early on it was frustrating though and ended up buying some titles on Ebay just so I could get them Shrek Movies and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs come to mind.

    I just went to see “Need for Speed” this last weekend and was surprised it was only showing on one screen and only 2 showings a day in 3D. So I would say unfortunately the time maybe coming to an end for a little while until the next jump. Glasses Free, or some other tech makes it cool again.
     
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  5. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    (No, seriously: WHY is there a sudden epidemic of being convinced that theatrical distribution for Need For Speed is somehow a life-or-death "harbinger" of the entire 3D industry?
    It's March, and just a few weeks after February, we're lucky they're showing anything in cineplexes this month besides Divergent for the fangirls, Mr. Peabody for the school-vacation kids, and the new 300 because they thought it worked the last time, and right now, theaters aren't too big on priorities for the others. And frankly, neither are the studios.
    And if not that, then could maybe a 22% on RottenTomatoes be one theory as to why it's showing on fewer cineplex screens this week?)

    One post, we could pass off as a panicky nut; two, and it's getting kinda weird.... :blink: )
     
  6. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    The problem with 3D at theaters is that they should NOT be charging extra for it (regular ticket prices are already way out of hand, reason I hardly go to movies anymore), and they should also not be showing 3D movies in 2D, any more than they should be showing movies done with multi-channel sound tracks in mono.

    Electronic stores seem to have quit displaying 3D, and when they were it usually wasn't working anyways. A few 3D Blu-Ray titles are overpriced, but I've bought a very large percentage of them under $20 each. Converted 3D (from 2D footage) simply shouldn't be done, period.
     
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  7. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Screenwriter
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    Ejanss, I've been following this trend for some time, so if you would kindly check your facts before attacking members here on the forum, you would see that the number of screens and showtimes a theatre has dedicated for the 3D version versus the 2D version of just about any 3D film has been diminishing. Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim, Monsters University, Man of Steel, Frozen, Wreck It Ralph, Hugo, Despicable Me 2, The Hobbit (parts 1 & 2), and even Gravity (during its initial run) all opened on fewer available 3D screens than they would have if they had been released 3-4 years ago. In most cases, theatres are splitting the showtimes on one screen with half in 3D, the other half in 2D. Check Fandango during the opening weekend for any 3D film, and, in most cases, only one screen per complex will be devoted to a 3D screening of that film, at best, while 2 or more screens are presenting the same film in 2D.

    You may have also missed my point that many of the smaller chains have given up on 3D altogether. Starlight Cinemas, which has been snatching up and renovating theatres abandoned by the big chains in Southern California (and quite successfully, I might add), stopped showing 3D altogether in late 2012.
     
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  8. Chuck Anstey

    Chuck Anstey Screenwriter

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    Around here, seeing a movie in 2D can be difficult depending on the movie where 10 showings are 3D and 2 are 2D so while the average 3D showings may be reduced, it isn't across the board everywhere. 3D is "dying" only in the sense that it failed to be used on 100% of the movies for 100% of the showings. No doubt the effort was there to treat 3D as if it were color, i.e. something that is just "there" without much additional effort. The public rejected that I think because 1) outrageous surcharge 2) not every movie is enhanced by 3D 3) overall poor 3D experience caused by inexperience using it effectively, conversions are poor 3D, and too many movies were in 3D.

    3D is not a passive experience and should not be treated as such by filmmakers. Viewers must wear glasses that can be difficult for some with glasses over glasses and the dimming effect. Viewers must deal with convergence and that affects people from very little to a whole lot to the point of feeling ill. And they have to pay way too much extra for the privilege of dealing with all that inconvenience so the film better damn well make good and strong use of 3D. The irony is that the industry went the other way to reduce the strain but then viewers are like "Why bother with any of it if 3D is simply 2D with a little depth?"

    My view is 3D movies should be relatively few (say 2 or 3 in the summer and 3 more throughout the year) and specifically shot for 3D using 3D cameras by people who spend more than 2 days asking questions and start shooting on the 3rd day. The current phrase "shot for 3D" appears to simply mean that it was framed to make it easier for the computer to fake 3D, not shot so that it is enhanced by 3D especially since it was shot 2D so how are they supposed to know how good the final 3D will look?
     
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  9. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    I'm not familiar with Starlight Cinemas on this side of the country; the only west coast Starlight chain I was able to Google was a series of discount second-run theaters, most of which HAVE been abandoned by the big chains over the last few years of Blu-ray.
    And second-run theaters that advertise $5 showings as their main selling point--and for movies that have already passed their first-run 3D window from the distributor--do not tack on expensive 3D digital projection and glasses, especially not for the hated $3-5 surcharge. I don't count a "Why pay more?" chain as affecting the policies of larger mainstream chains.

    (Of course, it could just be the arthouse/college/independent theaters, many of which had to close because they couldn't adjust to digital projection and the elimination of film prints--Would be nice if a chain philanthropically bought up some of those and updated their technology, but most of them don't show many 3-D features, as they don't cater to Need For Speed's crowd.)
     
  10. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Screenwriter
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    Starlight Cinemas is a first-run chain that has actually turned what were non-profitable theatres by the majors into very popular cinemas that routinely pack their seats every week. Not sure which Starlight Cinemas you were referring to.....
     
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  11. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    Well, I thought I was looking at the Starlight Terrace in Ranchos Palos Verdes, but now that I have a link, let's take a look at the Starlight Cinema City in Anaheim Hills:
    ...Oh, well. So much for the "They're pitching discount screenings to people who don't want to pay the surcharge" theory. :unsure:
    And yes, that little parenthetical has me wondering, too: Did they announce they were "giving up" 3D, or (hey, here's that thing again!), did they just stop advertising that the screenings were in 3D? I don't go to those theaters, y'see, so I wouldn't know.
     
  12. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Screenwriter
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    I have regularly heard the very authoritative voices of friends of mine telling me that 3D is dead. And yes, they cited ESPN's removal of the channel, and the lack of 3D programming locally. But these are also the same people who frankly hated the idea of 3D from the very beginning. They don't like the glasses, they don't want to spend the extra money, they don't like it with a fox.

    And I've also regularly heard from the folks who tell me that DVD and Blu-ray are dead and all we'll be doing is streaming from now on.

    I frankly don't believe any of that. I'm perfectly happy with having a 3D capable HDTV. It is also a wonderful 2D set. I have a selection of good 3D material I can play on it, so I can make use of the technology when I wish. If they never made another 3D movie, I would still have the content I have, and I would still have a great HDTV.

    I should also note that while Gravity and Star Trek ID were shot with 2D cameras, my understanding is that they were designed and lit for 3D. Meaning that they weren't just converting as an afterthought in post. I believe Gravity may have been a much tougher shoot if they'd been shooting with 3D cameras throughout. (Too many cramped quarters in those capsules, and a lot of the material was CGI in any case). I know that in the case of Star Trek ID, specific 3D elements were shot, albeit with 2D cameras. I am normally a stickler for shooting in 3D if you're going to present in 3D - but this is specifically to address the lighting issues and the design issues. If the filmmakers know what they're doing, and Alfonso Cuaron knows a heck of a lot, it is possible to design a movie in the way that he did, and have the 3D be quite satisfying.

    It seems to me that we've been averaging at least one good "3D event" movie each year since Avatar, as well as several very nice 3D Blu-rays, including Hugo, Life of Pi, and the conversion of Finding Nemo. I may be in the minority here, but I think we have plenty more history with this technology before we reach the end of it.
     
  13. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    I own a 3D Projector.. a great one, and 2 3D TVs. And I admit, I enjoy 3D projected, but 3D when presented on a TV screen frankly isn't that great. It's Ok, but it's not great. As a result, I think a lot of people were naturally disappointed with 3D. When a great movie uses 3D well - Life of Pi, Gravity, Avatar... it shows up and so will the audiences. But as much as I love Frozen, the experience of 3D didn't add much or really anything to me, all the magic was in the color, design and songs.
     
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  14. phillyrobt

    phillyrobt Stunt Coordinator

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    Looking forward to Jean Luc Godard's Goodbye To Language, Ang Lee's 3d boxing film, Peter Greenaway's 3x3d and Wim Wenders' Everything Will Be Fine. Half of the current box office Top 10 available in 3d. (Peabody/Sherman, 300 sequel, Need for Speed conversion Lego Movie and Frozen). Would love to see a 3d spoof anthology film ala Amazon Women/Kentucky Fried Movie from Jim Abrahams, Mel Brooks, Joe Dante, Pat Proft, and John Landis. One segment targeting the 50s Golden Age (using Man In The Dark like Airplane used Zero Hour), another segment parodying the 80s titles and a Pixar parody.
     
  15. RolandL

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    Here on the East coast I'm seeing more 3D showings than 2D

    300: Rise of an Empire An IMAX 3D ExperienceR, 1hr 42minBuy Tickets: 11:35 a.m. | 2:15 | 5:00

    300: Rise of an Empire 3DR, 1hr 42minBuy Tickets: 12:15 | 12:45 | 2:55 | 3:30 | 5:45 | 6:15 | 8:30
    300: Rise of an EmpireR, 1hr 43minBuy Tickets: 1:30 | 4:20 | 7:00 | 9:45

    Need for SpeedPG13, 2hrs 10minBuy Tickets: 4:15 | 10:45

    Need for Speed 3DPG13, 2hrs 10minBuy Tickets: 11:15 a.m. | 1:00 | 3:00 | 6:00 | 7:30 | 9:15
    Mr. Peabody & ShermanPG, 1hr 32minBuy Tickets: 12:00 | 2:30 | 5:05 | 10:25
    Mr. Peabody & Sherman 3DPG, 1hr 30minBuy Tickets: 11:25 a.m. | 1:55 | 4:35 | 7:10 | 9:40
     
  16. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    And they don't want to buy it until it's "glasses-free", and THEN complain "Movies today have no pop-out!" Uh, you can have one or the other...

    And didn't ESPN already come out saying that the reason they folded the channel wasn't so much audience disinterest in lack of programming, as in the growing difficulty of making new programming, once they found out that it took longer to set up stereoscopic camera shots, which didn't work well for fast-moving unscripted events?
    (No offense, but is Home Media a print magazine?...)
     
  17. Josh Steinberg

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    I actually thought two or three of the conversions listed in the original post as being "bad conversions" were at least decent, one I recall being unexpectedly good.

    In NYC, 2D vs. 3D showings seem to change based on the title, but it does seem that for most titles, they are skewing more towards 2D showings. "300: Rise Of An Empire" was mostly 3D, which hasn't happened around here since maybe "Gravity". "Need For Speed" is mostly showing in 2D here. It also seems, and without having a bunch of charts to back me up here, that when a 3D movie opens and screenings are inevitably reduced in the following weekends, that 3D showings are cut back more aggressively than 2D showings are.
     
  18. Persianimmortal

    Persianimmortal Screenwriter

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    To my mind, it is unfortunately a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the average person believes that 3D is dying, largely because they don't like it for whatever reason, then guess what - 3D is in trouble precisely because of that perception. It's the same with the Blu-ray format: it has numerous advantages, but because the average person can simply dismiss it all with a flippant "I can't see the difference", then guess what - Blu-ray struggles to sell, and DVD sales form 80% of overall disc sales, with streaming standing by to overtake disc formats shortly because of its greater convenience.

    It seems pointless to argue about this in a rational and technically oriented manner. Rationally speaking, why on Earth should 3D die off? It's a wonderful novelty that no-one is forced to use if they don't want to, and having a 3D TV at home doesn't impact negatively on 2D viewing, it simply adds another dimension (no pun intended) to the types of material we can watch when we feel like it. It broadens our viewing choices. So logically, why should 3D die? It's like saying that 7.1 channel audio should die off, or 4:4:4 chroma subsampling should die off. These are enhancements that people with the appropriate equipment can enjoy, and those without can ignore, but they serve to diversify and improve the experience for those who want it.

    Sadly though, the reality is that 3D (and the Blu-ray format) make demands on the casual viewer that they're not willing to accept. Whether it's wearing glasses, or a higher ticket price, or having to upgrade home theater components, it boils down to a case of "I do not want what I can't have". People unwilling to wear a few dollars extra in upgrade costs or ticket prices will justify it by saying that "3D is a gimmick", and then feel vindicated when 3D "dies off", much to their relief.

    I do agree with Todd's original post in this thread to a certain extent. Things could have been handled much better with regards to the rollout of 3D. Specifically, I blame the overhyping of 3D by the studios and CE manufacturers as the "next big thing" for creating a backlash against 3D. With the lack of "wow" moments in a lot of 3D content, due in large part to a lack of classic 3D movies, leaving us with the more subtle modern 3D films to carry the format, there was no way the reality was ever going to live up to that sort of hype.

    But again, I come back to the notion that people resent something which they can't readily obtain at what they consider a reasonable cost. Home 3D in particular requires upgrades to a range of the most expensive components - the TV, the player, even the receiver in some cases, as well as cabling. Not to mention having to buy pricey glasses and then having to power them up and put them on just for the 3D content. That's just asking way too much of Joe Sixpack, when he can whack on a DVD of his favorite movie on his current equipment and be done with it.

    I still scratch my head at why people react with so much hostility to 3D, and the only conclusion I can reach in each instance is that something only generates this much resentment when there is an element of jealousy mixed with fear of change involved. It's the same reason I believe motivates people to so easily dismiss the Blu-ray format in favor of DVD, and which we will also see surfacing more and more as public awareness of the upcoming 4K formats increases. In any case, whether we like it or not, the will of the majority rules, even when they're wrong. If the general population wants 3D to die off, it will effectively die off.
     
  19. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Screenwriter
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    Yes, it is a print magazine!!
     
  20. Tina_H_V

    Tina_H_V Supporting Actor

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    What a shame that 3D has come to this. I have had 3D in my home since the 2011 holiday season and I have not looked back since. I always try to make the effort to see the film in 3D, where applicable, as much and as often as possible. During my Oscar Runs, whenever a nominee is available on 3D, I always make it a point to see the film in 3D. That is what I did when I went to see Avatar in 2010, Life of Pi in 2013 and Gravity last month.Yes, I know that people can have a problem with the surcharges, and that can be an issue for some people who are cash-strapped enough as it is, especially when it comes to an outing at the movies. I haven't been to an electronics store in a while, but if 3D is, indeed, not being promoted as it once was, as Jesse posted earlier, then that is not helping 3D's cause, either. Whenever buying 3D BD's, I always try to make it a point to not spend too much money whenever possible. I caught a break from Amazon last year, when I was able to use a gift credit to pick up House of Wax 3D during the 2013 holiday season. And, I must say, it was, for me, money very well spent and a gift credit very well used, indeed!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
     
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