By Brad Gilligan
NPR.org will soon update its Web site for 3D capability.
OK, that isn't true, but with the current mania for all things 3D, the plausibility of that statement may have had you believing me for at least a moment. Three major electronics brands have announced plans for 3D TV, including Panasonic, Samsung and Sony. They hope to capitalize on the huge 3D theatrical success of James Cameron's Avatar, which has grossed more than $721 billion in domestic revenue -- nearly 81% of which comes from 3D sales.
Efforts to revitalize 3D began to gain public momentum in 2009 with the theatrical releases of movies like My Bloody Valentine 3D, the first horror film to show in 3D, and the animated tale Coraline. It was another animated feature that had DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg calling 3D "the future of filmmaking." A commercial for his film, Monsters vs. Aliens, was the first Super Bowl ad to be shown in 3D.
Three concerns -- two professional and one personal -- stand in the way of 3D's success, as far as I can tell.
After Blu-ray and HDTV, will consumers want to shell out the reported $3,875 for a 46" display? If they do, their viewing options may be limited. Not even Avatar will be released (at least initially) in 3D. News Corps' COO stated the reasoning simply, "The market is not there in the short-term."
And what about the glasses? For its Monsters vs. Aliens commercial, DreamWorks distributed over 125 million pairs of free glasses. Katzenberg predicts "3D eyeglasses will become as common as the many choices as exist in sunglasses today." I remain skeptical, though, wondering if viewers will find the eyewear an inconvenience. And at $133 a pop, I certainly hope people don't lose, misplace or break them like they do the remote control.
With a full slate of 3D movie releases ahead, we're not likely to forget about this recharged technology. Yet it remains to be seen if electronics brands can successfully sell this product, taking 3D out of theater screens to make it the preferred home viewing experience.