Monday, February 8, 2010

Brave New World

To many, the future will no doubt seem odd and peculiar.  Those beyond the fields we know, beyond the realms of geek, are unprepared for the coming world.  We refer not to the rise of machines or the fall of civilization - valid topics both, but we'll save them for another day; instead we wish to discuss to advent of the Third Dimension.
As a concept, of course, the third dimension has existed for millennia, and in practice it has been available slightly longer.  It surrounds us, permeates us, binds the galaxy together.  It is everywhere, or nearly so, and yet it has only recently taken off in film.
Indeed, in the distant future, all time will be divided as BA and AA: Before Avatar and After Avatar, though a massive worldwide computer glitch brought about by the fourth awakening of the Internet in 307AA will throw off the calendar by twenty-eight years, several alternate calendars will be developed, and eventually, in an attempt to secularize dating, the designation BCE and CE will be readopted in 702AA (or 702CE, if you prefer), though the new counting system will remain in use.
Granted, some of Avatar's religious significance can be attributed to its impact on high school students so enraptured by the imagery of Pandora that they experience deep and prolonged depression at the realization they can never visit (a group, we might add, so profoundly nerdy that reading about them makes even us, lifelong and committed geeks, tempted to beat them up for their lunch money).
The majority of the film's impact - both culturally and spiritually - can be traced instead to the absurdly high amount of money it produced.  At some point when we weren't paying attention, it seems to have become the highest grossing movie of all time, crushing even some movie about a sinking boat and a magic amulet.
The secret to Avatar's success isn't complicated: Cameron merely came to an important realization about the nature of theater admissions.  Until now, it was falsely believed that audiences wouldn't pay more than $10 for a ticket, and as such the success of a film was entirely dependant on the number of people who went to see a movie and they number of times they went to see it.  Cameron realized that the ten dollar mark was actually misleading: in fact, audiences are willing to pay $5 per dimension.
Therefore the price of Avatar and other 3D films can be raised to fifteen dollars, a price the audience is more than willing to pay in this case.  As an interesting side note, production studios could drive down the costs of their movies by lowering the ticket price to a mere five dollars and making 1-dimensional movies, similar in some ways to the radio shows of old.

While there's yet to be movement on the 1-dimensional front, now almost every new movie is being planned for 3D.  Why make Transformers 3 in 2D when it can be made in 3D?  Same with the next Underworld installment.  Sure, the budget will need to be inflated, but they'll surely make it up in increased revenue.
Unless, of course, the success of Avatar was driven by the fact the movie is innovative and new.  If that's the case, then the droves of copycat productions being greenlit by the dozens will only further motivate theatergoers to stay home, adding their inflated price of admission to an already long list of grievances, including expensive food, long lines, crowded audiences, cell phones, and the like.
But surely this can't be the case.  Surely Hollywood has the common sense to plan ahead and avoid this outcome.
After all, who wouldn't want to see a 3D live-action Stretch Armstrong movie?

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