'Lion King' success: Should Hollywood fall back in love with 3D?
Two big weekends for 'The Lion King 3D' and suddenly Hollywood is abuzz with talk of 3D conversions. But is the format the reason for the success of the returning modern classic?
Casey Rodgers/Time Warner Cable/AP
Not so fast, say a range of analysts, moviegoers and academics. While 3D may have helped propel the film‚Äôs winning streak, it is not a silver bullet.
‚ÄúAfter ‚ÄėAvatar‚Äô did so well, everyone thought that 3D was where filmmaking was going,‚ÄĚ says Paul Degarabedian, box office analyst for Hollywood.com. But then, 3D took a beating at the box office after a number of films such as ‚ÄúClash of the Titans,‚ÄĚ did poorly and were critically drubbed for a poor 3D conversion.
Other observers say Hollywood should be careful not to take the wrong lesson from the triumph of a returning modern classic to the big screen.
‚ÄúAs a parent, I can tell you why ‚ÄėThe Lion King‚Äô beat ‚ÄėMoneyball‚Äô at the box office,‚ÄĚ says public relations expert Sandi Straetker via email.
‚ÄúEVERYONE can enjoy ‚ÄėThe Lion King,‚Äô ‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúI can go with my kids and their grandparents and enjoy a wonderful, universally appealing story, beautifully told on the big screen.‚ÄĚ She says she owns the DVD, which her two children, ages 10 and 12, have seen many times. The family has also seen the staged version of the musical.
Many who have continued to view 3D as a passing gimmick ‚Äď yet again ‚Äď suggest that Hollywood should stop looking for a cure-all.
The 3D format has been around for a long time, points out ‚ÄúNew New Media‚ÄĚ author Paul Levinson, a professor at Fordham University in New York. It was a big trend in the 1950s, he says, but it died out because it is ‚Äúbasically a gimmick, not essential to the storytelling of filmmaking.‚ÄĚ Each time 3D makes a splash, ‚Äúeveryone thinks it‚Äôs the savior of the film industry.‚ÄĚ
Audiences are tired of paying the extra ticket charge for so-called blockbusters pumped up with often dim, poorly-projected 3D, says Seton Hall University film professor Christopher Sharrett.
Ticket sales for the latest 3D installments of ‚ÄúHarry Potter‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúPirates of the Caribbean‚ÄĚ were far weaker than expected; the 2D editions did better, he points out, adding that sales of 3D televisions have hardly produced the windfall that the electronics industry expected.
The 3D format has often been used to boost poor, uninspired movies, he says, adding, ‚Äú3D might be put back on the shelf for another 20 years, until its gimmick value seems fresh again.‚ÄĚ
But Ms. Straetker says she would pay the extra charge to see ‚ÄúThe Lion King‚ÄĚ in 3D, ‚Äúbecause I do think it would be a unique experience,‚ÄĚ nonetheless, adding, ‚ÄúI think there is more to this success than just the 3D aspect of it. I think that there is a market for good, classic, family-friendly films.‚ÄĚ
In today‚Äôs crowded marketplace, even beloved classics need every ounce of help they can get to break through, says Rob Hummel, president of Legend3D, a leading 3D conversion company based in San Diego which has done 2D-to-3D conversion work on ‚ÄúTransformers: Dark Side of the Moon,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThe Smurfs,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúGreen Lantern,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúAlice in Wonderland,‚ÄĚ all the ‚ÄúShrek‚ÄĚ films and are currently working on a 3D theatrical release of ‚ÄúTop Gun.‚ÄĚ
He notes that a re-release 15 years ago of ‚ÄúMary Poppins,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúa personal favorite,‚ÄĚ quietly died at the box office, because there was nothing special to draw attention to it. He acknowledges there have been dismal failures, both in the conversion process as well as new films. But, he adds, ‚Äúwhen the conversion is done right, the films can really sparkle.‚ÄĚ
He says it is extremely helpful to work alongside the original filmmakers, as is being done with such modern classics as the ‚ÄúStar Wars‚ÄĚ franchise as well as James Cameron‚Äôs ‚ÄúTitanic.‚ÄĚ
The director himself is overseeing the conversion, which will consume a year at a cost of some $18 million. Lest anyone doubt the painstaking nature of the work, Mr. Cameron was quoted as saying the process is akin to ‚Äúmowing the lawn with a nail clipper.‚ÄĚ