Jeffrey Katzenberg's desperation plea: Movie biz needs to make movies that look good in 3-D
I think things have gotten to the point where Jeffrey Katzenberg, who's been a Jerry Falwell-style evangelist for 3-D for years now, probably needs to hire a crisis management PR firm to salvage the ever-deteriorating image of 3-D movies. Roger Ebert, America's leading film critic, hates them, along with a majority of other leading critics. (Joe Morgenstern's full-bodied takedown of "Clash of the Titans" in the Wall Street Journal earlier this summer was a classic.)
Reporters have been taking potshots at the medium for months now, with my colleague Ben Fritz pointing out that most of Hollywood's revenue gains this year were from the sky-high prices people have to pay for 3-D films. The Wrap's Daniel Frankel recently ran a story arguing that a decreasing amount of box-office dough was coming from 3-D screens. And I keep hearing from regular folks who have bailed out on taking their kids to see 3-D films, saying that the kids--especially the young 'uns--hate wearing the glasses, which are irritating and give them headaches.
So when Katzenberg spoke at the third annual 3-D Entertainment Summit Wednesday, the DreamWorks Animation chief was sounding awfully defensive, trying to compare 3-D skeptics to the Luddites who opposed sound and color movies. Forbes' Dorothy Pomerantz, who writes the magazine's always readable Show Me the Money blog, described Katzenberg's answer to his critics as coming in the form of this whopper: "It is up to the film industry to maintain the audience's trust and only put out films that look good in 3-D." Katzenberg added that moviegoers must love 3-D, since six of the top 10 movies at the box office so far this year were 3-D releases.
Pomerantz wasn't buying it. As for the majority of top-grossing films being 3-D movies, she quipped: "Never mind that 3-D movies are bound to rise to the top because they can charge so much more per ticket." It turns out that the Forbes blogger is another one of those pesky 3-D media detractors, her unhappiness with the medium being well earned, since she is the mother of two children, ages 3 and 6. It turns out that the entire Pomerantz family has soured on Hollywood's 3-D mania, which so far has resulted in one great film--"Avatar"--a couple of good ones and a lot of dreck.
It turns out that earlier this summer Pomerantz wrote a post headlined: "3-D Movies: Is the Fad Already Over? (It Is for My Family)." In it, she detailed a visit with her kids to the local multiplex where a matinee showing of "Despicable Me" cost $41 for a family of four in 2-D, $55 for the 3-D version of the film. As she wrote: "In my mind, that's too much money. For one thing, my kids are scared of the 3-D effects and wiggle so much in their seats it's hard to tell if they're seeing the image clearly at all ... I find the glasses sit very uncomfortably on my face and that the movie image is often dim. For some reason, my husband doesn't see the 3-D well and ends up with a horrible headache.... So from now on, my family and I are saying 'no' to 3-D."
Oy gevalt! According to another post Pomerantz just put up, Oakley sunglasses has announced plans to sell custom-made 3-D glasses, at roughly $150 a pop (that would be $600 for a family of four). When it comes to 3-D, everyone is trying to make a buck. But so far the art has lagged far behind the commerce. I think Katzenberg is going to need some really good image-making assistance to burnish 3-D's flagging image. If only "Mad Men's" Don Draper wasn't a fictional character--he'd probably be just the right guy for the job.
Photo: DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg at the 2008 3-D Entertainment Conference. Credit: Ric Francis / Associated Press