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Category: April 2010

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What kind of 'Breaking Dawn' will Bill Condon make?

April 28, 2010 |  1:20 pm

Summit confirmed this morning that, as the rumor mill in Hollywood has been churning for weeks, "Dreamgirls" director Bill Condon will come on to direct the fourth installment in the "Twilight" franchise, no doubt prompting an unlikely spike in "Gods & Monsters" DVD sales among teenage girls. (Condon's name was first reported as a "Breaking Dawn" candidate back in March by Entertainment Weekly.)

CondonCondon has generally been thought of as the more logical choice, at least compared to some of the other directors under consideration, like Sofia Coppola and Stephen Daldry.

In making the choice, Summit, which has gone for a different type of director for each film in the franchise, clearly wanted someone with more Oscar chops (Condon's won one and been nominated for a second). That's both because the "Breaking Dawn" material is a little more complicated than the previous books and because with the franchise already an unstoppable juggernaut, they can afford to take a risk, at least a small one.

So what kind of teen-vampire fable will the man responsible for "Dreamgirls," "Gods & Monsters" and "Kinsey" make? None of his previous directing credits are obvious analogues to this movie (though the initial frenzy over him as a candidate was a little baffling; good filmmakers reinvent themselves all the time. And it's nothing compared to Rob Marshall, another man known for musicals, taking on "Pirates of the Caribbean 4").

Each of Condon's directorial films (he also wrote "Chicago," but we'll leave that one out) contains a strand that can be put front and center in "Breaking Dawn" if the director chose (some spoilers ahead if you're not familiar with the novel).

"Dreamgirls," for all its pomp, centers on the larger world persecuting an anointed one, a neat parallel to the ordeal faced by Bella's child. It also tells a sprawling story from several perspectives, as the "Breaking Dawn" novel does.

"Monsters," which tells of the personal and creative trouble of "Bride of Frankenstein" director James Whale, could come in handy if Condon wanted to explore the demons that come from within, a plight particularly faced by Bella throughout the series.

DreamAnd a "Kinsey" influence would mean the foregrounding of a misunderstood but right-minded outsider, which kind of describes all three main protagonists in the series but especially, in this book, describes Jacob, who breaks away from his family over their murderous intentions for Bella's child.

As a rule, Condon has been preoccupied with the underdog in his movies, though one who ultimately triumphs and finds vindication,  which fits nicely with the themes of "Twilight."

Still, plenty of other questions will arise as production moves forward -- namely, whether the film will shoot in 3-D, how the likely second film that will come from the "Breaking Dawn" novel will be developed, and how the timing of this one will unfold, with Summit eager to keep the momentum going but Condon, like most Oscar winners, accustomed to working at a slower pace.

In "Gods & Monsters," Condon depicted a filmmaker beset by troubles as he tried to make an expectation-laden tale of the supernatural. Here's hoping life doesn't imitate art.

--Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photos: Bill Condon. Credit: Writers Guild of America. "Dreamgirls" poster. Credit: Paramount Pictures.
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Sony will open the cage doors on 'Zookeeper' nine months later

April 27, 2010 |  4:59 pm

The 2011 spring and summer movie-going period is already looking bigger, badder and more spectacle-driven than previous springs and summers, which is saying something. Films such as the Marvel action movie "Thor," the next "Pirates of the Caribbean," "The Hangover" sequel and the fourth "Mission: Impossible" are already tentatively scheduled for release -- and that's just in May.

James Now Sony is dropping another star-driven title into the mix. It will move the Kevin James- Adam Sandler comedy "The Zookeeper" out of its Oct. 8 date and to July 8.

The film features live-action animals voiced by a group of stars (Sandler, Jon Favreau and Sylvester Stallone, to name several) as they help the titular zookeeper (James) land the woman of his dreams. Sony several weeks ago took over distribution duties from co-financier MGM, as the latter faces a lack of capital and a cloudy fate. And after testing the film last week, Sony has now decided that a summer release date accommodated its larger ambitions.

The movie's new date does come in a very crowded corridor, a week after “Transformers 3” and four days before the second part of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is released. Sony is clearly hoping its comedy will stand out amid the two big-budget event films. “It plays like a big, big summer movie and this move is all about the opportunity,” said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures' distribution president.

What this means for another Sony project remains an open question. The studio had quietly spread the word in the development community for the last few weeks that it had a slot open for a summer tentpole and was considering moving forward on "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune," the adaptation of a popular video game, for a summer 2011 release. We'll see if "Zookeeper" fills its need or if it still wants another creature to feed.

--Ben Fritz and Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Adam Sandler and Kevin James. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

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U.S. government fines Southwest. Somewhere, Kevin Smith is smiling

April 27, 2010 |  4:18 pm

SmithkKevin Smith hasn't tweeted his victory lap -- yet -- but we couldn't help but be amused by the news that Southwest Airlines has just been penalized for its policy of bumping passengers. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation is hitting the red-and-yellow with a $200,000 fine.It's not for wrongly enforcing a weight issue, but it's not that different either.

Like so many airlines these days, Southwest apparently overbooked -- but then neglected to compensate passengers, or inform them they could be compensated.

According to the Los Angeles Times story, "a Transportation Department spokesman declined to say how many cases were investigated. But the agency representative said the airline agreed to pay the assessment to avoid potential litigation." And a Kevin Smith Twitter war.

--Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photo: Kevin Smith. Credit: Justin Lane/EPA

Dinged by the weather, a film festival gets a boost from technology

April 27, 2010 |  1:40 pm

Film festivals may not necessarily want to hold it up as a template, but as a MacGyver-like solution, you have to hand it to City of Lights, City of Angels, the French-flavored film festival that wrapped Sunday in Los Angeles.

When Pascal Chaumeil, the director of festival opening-night picture "Heartbreaker," was grounded in Europe because of the ash-spewing Icelandic volcano last week, organizers wondered how they could get him here. Then they took out the masking tape and chewing gum.

Festival programmers decided to Skype in Chaumeil, who then proceeded to hold a question-and-answer session with attendees in the DGA theater. The film maker chatted with festgoers who had come to see the romantic dramedy, which stars Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis in a love triangle of sorts.
As COLCOA director Francois Truffart jokes, "Maybe now we should do all our premieres with Skype."

About 15,000 people attended this year's festival, organizers said, with films such as upcoming Weinstein Co. release "The Concert," starring "Inglourious Basterds" heroine Melanie Laurent, making their debut. Organizers this year also promoted the festival on Facebook and Twitter. They used the technology to attract younger audiences, a move they say they aim to replicate next year. The Skype, they're hoping, will be a one-time thing.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Vanessa Paradis and Romain Duris in "Heartbreaker." Photo: Universal Pictures France

Summer showdown: Will 'Iron Man' flay 'Robin Hood'?

April 27, 2010 | 12:55 pm


It's a bit like a freeway at rush hour: four big movies on three consecutive weekends, and somebody -- and it might be "Robin Hood" -- will have to accelerate to stay on the road.

Universal has a lot riding on its summer update of the mythical English hero. For the movie to prosper, the beleaguered studio will have to take a page out of the Robin Hood playbook and steal from the rich -- namely, Marvel Entertainment and Paramount Pictures' "Iron Man 2."

There's little question the Tony Stark sequel is going to launch the summer season in spectacular fashion. Although early word-of-mouth is not as strong as the buzz greeting the 2008 original, and the initial "Iron Man 2" trade reviews are not glowing, May 7's superhero sequel could break the three-day box-office record set by 2008's "The Dark Knight" ($158.4 million) and certainly should rival (if not surpass) the premieres of 2007's "Spider-Man 3" ($151.1 million) and 2006's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" ($135.6 million).

1 So even if "Iron Man 2" drops around 50% in its second week of release (the first film fell 48.1% in its second weekend), the sequel could gross as much as $70 million over the May 14 weekend, when Universal's "Robin Hood" is set to premiere. Several people who have studied this week's audience tracking surveys say that means "Robin Hood" will not open in first place with a possible opening gross around $45 million, and the Russell Crowe historical epic also will lose some critical female ticket buyers to Summit Entertainment's Amanda Seyfried love story "Letters to Juliet," which looks surprisingly strong among younger women.

Universal has struggled with its last two big-budget releases, as both February's "The Wolfman" (domestic gross: $62 million, with not much more overseas) and March's "Green Zone" (domestic gross: $35 million and equally weak foreign returns) fizzled fast.The studio said "Robin Hood" cost $155 million, but another person close to the production maintained that the budget was closer to $200 million. Universal's budget figure includes all of the film's rebates and tax credits, and also excludes the shut-down costs when the film's initial production start was postponed. 

For "Robin Hood" to succeed, the film will need to play strongly for several weeks and perform robustly 1 overseas, where Universal expects the movie could double its domestic theatrical gross. The studio is hopeful the film could perform like "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Sherlock Holmes," neither of which opened in first place. Fox's 2007 animated rodent comedy was crushed in its premiere weekend by "I Am Legend" but nevertheless went on to sell more than $217.3 million in tickets in domestic release. Warner Bros.' "Sherlock" update premiered in second place behind the behemoth "Avatar" but also went on to surpass $209 million in domestic release.

It won't get easier for "Robin Hood" later in the month. On May 21, DreamWorks Animation opens "Shrek Forever After," the fourth (and promised last) sequel in the animated franchise. Although the momentum is fading for the ogre story (2007's third "Shrek" film did 27% less domestic business than 2004's second offering), the 3-D animated comedy is still on track to be one of the summer's biggest releases, as it plays to all slices of the audience. 

1 When Crowe and "Robin Hood" director Ridley Scott collaborate, the results can be dramatically successful. Ten years ago, the best-picture-winning "Gladiator" grossed $187.7 million, and 2007's "American Gangster" grossed $130.2 million. But 2006's "A Good Year" was a bad week ($7.5 million domestically) and 2008's "Body of Lies" also fared poorly ($39.4 million domestically). Last year, Crowe's Universal film "State of Play" performed weakly, grossing $37 million domestically. To play deep into the summer, "Robin Hood" will need strong word-of-mouth, young male ticket buyers, supportive reviews and a reasonably good turnout from women -- before they flood the multiplex for May 27's "Sex and the City 2."

-- John Horn

Photos, from top: Russell Crowe in "Robin Hood." Credit: Kerry Brown / Universal Pictures. Robert Downey Jr. in "Iron Man 2." Credit:  Merrick Morton / Marvel Entertainment. Sarah Jessica Parker in "Sex and the City 2." Credit: Craig Blankenhorn / Warner Bros. Pictures.  "Shrek Forever After." Credit: DreamWorks Animation / Paramount Pictures

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'Iron Man 2' premieres in Hollywood, and expectations slip on a shiny suit

April 27, 2010 |  3:00 am

"Figure out what the audience wants and give it to them," Robert Downey, Jr., said from the podium outside the El Capitan Theatre at the "Iron Man 2" premiere Monday night.

Downey may have been kidding, in that knowing, smirking, I'm-in-on-the-joke-too way of his that defies you not to like him. But the statement may also have well captioned the evening, summing up how the presentation of the franchise has neutralized many criticisms of its popcorn charms. Downey and Marvel know the commercial juggernaut they have here, and as they've done since they started rolling out the movie at Comic-con last summer (and as Tony Stark himself might do), they not only flashed that confidence but turned it into a selling point.

Downeyjr Indeed, the premiere of the Marvel-produced, Paramount-distributed, Justin Theroux-penned sequel delivered the pleasing to the crowd, as director and co-star Jon Favreau, standing on a makeshift podium on Hollywood Boulevard, introduced the litany of stars, from Mickey Rourke to Gwyneth Paltrow to Samuel Jackson to Downey himself. (Check out the red-carpet video from sister blog Ministry of Gossip, as well as the ongoing pre-release countdown from our sister blog, Hero Complex.)

Then out came "The Ironettes" (like the Rockettes, only with a superhero motif) who did a heels-up, devil-may-care number to parallel an on-screen performance from one of the film's first sequences. (The El Capitan setting of the premiere, incidentally, showed just how entwined Disney is with studio/producer Marvel, which it acquired last year, which also meant the premiere was the first known superhero movie to begin with a live organist performance, as nearly all screenings at the El Cap do.)

We'll of course wait for the Los Angeles Times' critics and other reviewers to offer their assessments of the movie, but our own quick reaction was of a film rich in flash, generous in wit (never before has such a fast-talking, confidence-brimming wiseacre donned a superhero costume) and thin on meaningful storytelling (but thick with the false-start kind). Several colleagues we spoke to afterward similarly did not find themselves in a pose of jaw-dropping awe but, like us, they felt the film has a sense of confidence in its own mission that almost wills you into liking it (or distracts you from its convolutions).

Palt What this movie will offer its broad quilt-work of fans is of course the key question. For a film that will be one the biggest of the summer and possibly the biggest three-day opener of all time, "Iron Man 2" has a tricky job, commercially speaking. It needs to satisfy those who crave more of the mythology introduced by the first film, but it also needs to stand alone as it aims to bring in even more people than the first (and squash that movie's $98-million opening and $318-million total).

And as it does all of this, it needs to set up future movies in the Marvel canon, particularly the ensemble-oriented "Avengers," which it devotes a fair amount of time to doing, at the risk of complicating the storytelling (we'll stay away from major spoilers, but here's a small one; skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it -- Downey's Tony Stark offers to come in as a "consultant" to the Avengers group being organized by Samuel Jackson's Nick Fury. That doughnut scene from the early footage is only the beginning.)

If the wisdom based on some of the early tracking has it that "Iron Man 2" has the potential to be a blockbuster of epic proportions, Monday night did little to tamp down those expectations. When you have the flashy goods, you may as well show them off. Both Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr. could tell you that.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Upper photo: Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey at the "Iron Man 2" premiere. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Lower photo: Gwyneth Paltrow at the "Iron Man 2" premiere. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

A new writer will swing his stick at the Sean Avery movie

April 26, 2010 |  6:03 pm

EXCLUSIVE: As lifelong haters of the New York Rangers, it irks to write of progress on any movie project involving the team, especially the most hateable of all New York Rangers, the uber-gentlemanly Sean Avery.

But it's hockey playoffs time -- and the writer who's now set to, er, tackle the movie about the bluest of Broadway blueshirts has some chops -- so we figured why not.

A while back, the movie, titled "Puckface," sold to New Line and began coming together. Now the picture is getting a boost -- namely, an up-and-comer named Chip Hall, a longtime writer and producer on "King of the Hill" as well as the current Spike TV college-football satire "Blue Mountain State." Hall has been hired to write a new draft, picking it up from Stan Chervin, who also was an early writer on another high-profile sports movie, "Moneyball."

Hall is a welcome figure on the New Line/Warner Bros. lot -- welcome the way Mike Bossy will always be welcome on Long Island -- with a gig already booked to write the sports comedy "Liam McBain: International Tennis Star and Proper English Geezer" for Warner Bros. He'll need all the skills he can muster for "Puckface," on which he'll have the unenviable task of making Sean Avery sympathetic, even likable.

Avery, as hockey fans and general chroniclers of thuggery know, is renowned a little for his stick-handling  and a lot for his goonishness (that's him on the right above, discussing Shakespeare with a player on the Montreal Canadiens). He's one of those NHL-ers who prompted the league to enact new rules after he tried some new moves (like turning his back to the play and waving his stick in the face of opposing goalies). And he was famously ridden out of Dallas and back to the Rangers after trashing other players -- he used a colorful phrase to make his point -- who had dated his ex-girlfriends.

But Avery is also a more complicated soul (we're told), a self-styled fashionista and restaurant proprietor who, when he's not inventing new ways to get under the skin of other NHL-ers, is happy to opine on all things fashion. A few years back, he actually spent a summer interning at Vogue, and the movie is a romantic comedy of sorts about his time there. Think "The Devil Wears Prada," only in this case the devil is an actual devil (but not a Devil).

"Puckface" still elicits the delicious question of who shall play the chippy skater. It is, however, being produced by Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson. In addition to the Avery movie, the pair are veteran producers who are behind, among other films, "The Number 23" and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," films built around menacing villains. Perfect.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Sean Avery (right) fights Josh Gorges of Montreal Canadiens. Credit: Al Bello / Getty Images

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'How to Train Your Dragon,' the animation world's 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'?

April 26, 2010 |  2:43 pm

There are many holy grails in Hollywood, but few as pursued as the slow-burn success -- that film that doesn't blow away audiences when it first comes out but hangs on long enough to become a breakout. Like the Holy Grail, the slow-burn is frequently sought (well, by movies that don't blow away filmgoers when they first come out). And like the Holy Grail, some wonder if it even exists.

These kinds of hits certainly occur with far less frequency than they did five or 10 years ago. And these movies rarely hang in for very long. Even the slow-burns burn faster than they used to.

Twelve years ago, for example, saw "There's Something About Mary" muck around between the second and fourth spots on the weekend box-office charts for nearly two months before finally breaking through and hitting No. 1. (The movie went on to gross $176 million, good enough for the third-highest total of the year.) "Avatar" made some strides in this direction; while the movie followed a more traditional trajectory of a solid month at No 1. before falling from the perch, it was able to show week-to-week gains in ticket receipts even several months into its release.

And then, of course, there's the exemplar of the form: "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which actually never hit No. 1 over  its remarkable run in 2002 and 2003. In fact, the film took four months even to expand beyond 750 screens. But  despite a quiet rollout, the movie continued to amp up the decibel level, as, every few weeks, new waves of people seemed to discover it.  By the time its run ended, the film had played in theaters for nearly an entire year -- a century in box-office time -- and had grossed an astonishing $241 million, ahead of blockbusters such as "War of the Worlds" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."

This year's candidate for the slow-burn, "How to Train Your Dragon," isn't likely to hang around for 12 months, or even until August. But there's something "Greek Wedding"-like about it just the same. When it opened last month, the movie debuted at No 1, but with a soft-ish $43 million. Then it fell from the top spot, vacillating between second and third place for the following three weeks. And this week it reclaimed it.

BigfaThere are plenty of distinctions between "Dragon" and the previous slow-burns. The animated tale has hung on, but that hanging on is measured in smaller drops, not renewed momentum -- unlike "Wedding" or "Mary," it hasn't gained audience week-to-week.

And of course both those examples played through the much busier summer period, not the box-office doldrums of the early spring. But it's still a remarkable feat. Most movies, especially animated ones, will never get back to the top spot once they've fallen from it. ("Wall-E," an equally well-reviewed and well-received animated film, fell out of No. 1 and never climbed back; by its fifth week it was in seventh place, grossing less than half of the $15 million "Dragon" did in in its own fifth week.)

So what is it that keeps a movie like this going? Obviously it's about good word-of-mouth, but that's like saying a good restaurant is about tasty dishes. We'd offer that it's about subtle charms, the kind that reveal themselves over time, and get people to see it who never thought they would. "Wall-E," as strong as it was, made its virtues known pretty much right away: a cute robot in outer space. What's not to like?

"Dragon" isn't as immediately inviting. The title tells you nothing (and in fact gives off the faint whiff of an instructional video). And a dragon is hardly a cuddly animal. But as filmgoers discover it, they give the DreamWorks Animation film momentum beyond any point when it reasonably should have.

For the most part, box office is still a combustible firecracker more than a gentle flame. But even in these times, it's nice to see a movie burn slowly. At least until a movie like "Iron Man 2" extinguishes it in a couple of weeks.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photos: "How to Train Your Dragon." Credit: DreamWorks Animation. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Credit: IFC Films

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The TCM Classic Film Festival, a showcase of movies past, points to the future

April 26, 2010 |  6:30 am


Apart from bringing the soothing, erudite tones of Robert Osborne off the upper end of the cable dial and into full (3-D?) effect of a live staging, this weekend's TCM Classic Film Festival did something else. The barnstorming event, which just concluded its four-day run in Los Angeles, improbably offered a glimpse into the future of movie-going.

How exactly does a festival dedicated to the creative output of Humphrey Bogart, Ernest Borgnine and Eli Wallach do that? By showing how someone can make the film-going experience unique and even exciting, and with little more than some old prints and inventive pairings.

We caught two screenings at the festival over the weekend -- a Saturday showing of "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," with Anjelica and Danny Huston in a pre-screening chat (their father and grandfather directed and starred in the film, respectively) -- and a Sunday afternoon showing of Martin Scorsese's fame- and celebrity-critique, "The King of Comedy" (co-star Jerry Lewis, though on the bill as a guest, did not turn up, so we had to use our imagination on that one). Both were stellar events, thanks to introductions from Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz, and the sheer pleasure of watching both a vintage classic and a modern classic on a big screen, and in an ornate theater like Grauman's Chinese, no less.

We also heard gushing reports from several other events, including the Friday afternoon screening of Nicholas Ray's hard-boiled noir "In a Lonely Place" and the closing-night festivities that brought the screening of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" together with a live orchestral performance,

The reason it all worked was because the festival took something that's part of our pop-culture canon and made it fresh. In some cases, these screenings were simply a way of introducing a piece of art or entertainment to a new generation with the extra flourish of a large-scale screening; in other cases, they added something specific to our understanding of the work. ("L.A. Confidential" director Curtis Hanson, for instance, introduced "In a Lonely Place." Who better to talk about the history of noir than someone who's made the best modern example of the form?)

The movie business often frets about the relevance of film-going in the YouTube age, when entertainment is disposable, portable and inexpensive to view (read: typically costs nothing). Hollywood has been intent on trying to compete with these many out-of-theater experiences by mounting ever larger spectacles -- see under: the 3-D revolution, a particular hobbyhorse for us and others these days. And theater owners, eager for anything that will give them a leg up or stave off obsolescence, have gone along, sometimes grudgingly, sometimes enthusiastically.

But the entertainment world, as it often does, offers another way. And the TCM festival shows us what that way might be  -- namely, creating a buzz around a screening of a previously released film. The festival provided a template on how movies can be fun and event-worthy. By creating either a one-off or a weeklong road show of any one of a number of great movies from the past 90 years, accompanied by a live element that will motivate people to leave their homes, theaters can emulate the TCM festival and offer a pretty valuable service to audiences (while also saving their own hides).

Most big cities have at least a few stars living in them and, judging by this weekend, most stars are happy to come out and talk about their film if it means sharing it with a new generation, or even if it means reliving it with an older one. Repertory houses have been doing something along these lines for years, but the bulk and costs associated with shipping prints has prevented the phenomenon from catching on in a wider way.

These days, however, digital cinema makes screening these films cheaper and easier than ever. So why couldn't theaters show these films in a TCM-esque manner, lending them an event quality, not to mention giving viewers the chance to establish a connection to the film that's deeper than just watching it on Netflix. The theaters would win (is there any doubt that a weeklong run of, say, "The Godfather" as introduced by Francis Ford Coppola wouldn't sell out each night?), the libraries of these classic prints would win and, most important, film fans, no doubt feeling a little strangled by first-run movie offerings these days (when "Date Night" and "The Back-Up Plan" dueling for screens passes for diversity), would get a needed breath of fresh air.

It wouldn't have to be "Easy Rider" and "Gone With the Wind" either -- you can show contemporary classics, like "Memento" or "The Matrix," and achieve the same effect. And you wouldn't need the presence of Robert Osborne, beatific though it may be, to make it happen.

As movie-going becomes ever more spectacle-oriented, we're constantly reminded that the future lies with the sound and fury of 3-D. But as the TCM festival shows, there are many ways to turn a movie screening into a larger-than-life event.

-- Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photo: Humphrey Bogart in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Credit: Warner Bros.

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Will the 3-D frenzy ruin the movies many of us enjoy?

April 25, 2010 |  2:31 pm

3-D seems like mostly a trifling diversion now -- basically, as a filmgoer it means that you pay a few extra bucks, pick up a pair of glasses and watch some stunts unfold a little closer to your face.

But the 3-D thinking that's currently gripping Hollywood could engender changes far more sweeping than many of us imagine.

For one thing, it's becoming pervasive to the point of ubiquity, or at least to the point where most of the big releases next holiday season and beyond will be in 3-D. The format won't be the exception -- it will be the norm.

But maybe more to the point, 3-D is changing how movies are written. As one screenwriter said -- in a piece we wrote for today's paper about how 3-D is changing the creative process (part of a larger Sunday LAT package on the new world of 3-D and all that it touches) -- many film scribes now actually insert 3-D moments the way a sitcom writer scripts one-liners.

Finally, 3-D pushes Hollywood further, and perhaps inexorably, in the direction of spectacle. As the writer Justin Marks puts it, "3-D continues to speak to the elimination of the middle creatively. If you don't have an action tentpole that can conceivably be thought of in 3-D, you may as well make small indie movies, because the studios aren't going to be that interested." Marks would know -- he's written a number of big-budget action movies, from Disney's stalled "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" to Sony's "Shadow of the Colossus."

So is all this good for our filmgoing experience? Some would say that it means studios are remaking themselves -- and theaters -- as retailers of experience as much of as cinema. And they'd have a point. After all, some of this feels just one step below a theme park ride; skeptics would be right to wonder if the moving seats from a Universal Studios simulator may not be far off. In fact, even as 3-D takes hold, some creative types wonder if they can create a visual spectacle that envelops the viewer from all directions, like a surround-sound for the eyes.

But then, it's worth keeping in mind the long view -- namely, that Hollywood has been trying to one-up itself on technology since sound came on the scene, and probably before. So the sky may be falling. But it's been falling for decades.

Besides, these things to tend to run in cycles. As one indie-film veteran we spoke to last week said, "I've seen it before. Just when Hollywood seems to be going for so many big-budget effects movies it looks like it will burst, people get tired of it, and storytelling, even restrained storytelling, makes a comeback." From his lips to studio executives' ears.

-- Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photo: My Bloody Valentine 3-D. Credit: Lionsgate


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