Wednesday Afternoon at the Movies
March, 2010

By Jerry Walden

     Now that “Avatar” has arrived, and re-landscaped the garden of  movie land, it seems inevitable that new paths will be carved in this lush, green forest of consumer dollars, to maximize redistribution of assets, influence and power.  (I love to write in Victorian filigree sometimes.)
     The theater which I attended for the showing of “Avatar” had a ten minute presentation before the movie.  An AMC spokes person explained a lot about the new technology and the cost of altering movie houses for the IMAX screens.  He said that the theater I was attending had cost about $200,000 to remodel.  He mentioned that a fire door had to be relocated which meant ripping out parts of the exterior wall.  Also, the theater lost the front four rows of seats, and several more seats in the rear where the projection booth was enlarged.
     Well, with a price tag like that, I guess we won’t be seeing IMAX screens popping up like mushrooms after a warm spring rain; unless the paying public decides otherwise.  If the public keeps responding as they did with “Avatar,” the screens will be built.  It is sort of the mirror image of that famous statement in “Field of Dreams,” “Build it and they will come.”
     “Alice in Wonderland” seems to be off and running well.  Tim Burton, Johnnie Depp and Lewis Carrol seem to have been made from the same clay.  I’m looking forward to seeing “Alice” much more than I was for “Avatar.”  Some would say that perhaps I identify with the Mad Hatter.  Actually, I would say I identify much more with Lewis Carroll himself than any of his characters.  There is an aesthetic to advanced mathematics that most never become aware of.  It is an art and a delight far beyond what any one hour TV series can handle or deal with.
     I noticed that “Clash of the Titans” is to be released in both 2-D and 3-D.  It will be interesting to watch the dollar count in each format.  I bet that both formats will do well but probably come in well below the yield of “Avatar” or “Alice.”
     I’m hoping the 3-D format sticks around this time.  Drawing the audience into the scene rather than poking things out into the audience is a definite improvement.  It did become a little confusing when I was trying to brush those little flying seeds out of my way.  By the way, I remember the 3-D films of the 50’s; also, Scent-o-rama.
     Action movies would be a natural for the new 3-D.  Car chases, falling airplanes, gun battles, skiing, surfing, more car chases, sports of all sorts.  Wait a minute; I don’t want to get anymore up close and personal at a “Rocky” film than the original.
     And sure as rain falls in Seattle, snow blows in Fargo, and hurricanes love Florida, someone is going to make a hot and passionate, romance film in 3-D.  I’m not so sure how the film is to be rated.  If well made, it might pass “Avatar” in dollars earned.  Those pictures are money winners when everything is left to the imagination of the audience.  Adding 3-D might have serious, unexpected social ramifications.
     All of this sent my imagination careening back to the Holo-deck in Star Trek, wondering how far away we are from this form of entertainment and/or education.  Really, some people are interested in education; I read about them all the time.  We now can visually and audibly put the user in the action, we know the olfactory sense can be involved; the only major hurdle seems to be the tactile senses.  Scientists know that the nerve endings throughout our body are receptors for the central processing center, the brain.  And there have been many scientific experiments artificially stimulating areas of the brain that produced sensations that seem to be as real as those produced by environmental stimuli.  Extensive experimentation by amateurs, using chemicals have produced similar results.  Unfortunately, a large portion of these amateurs lose control of their experiments, and die; the scientific approach seems preferable since there is less collateral damage.
     Perhaps microwave stimulation of the appropriate areas of the brain is a possibility.  A helmet that generated focused microwaves might be developed, and then programmed by creative artists to produce experiences for the subject as they laid back in a recliner.  The microwaves would have to have very specific frequencies and volumes, and precisely programmed,  or negative results would occur, commonly referred to as, ‘insanity.’  Allowing the frequencies to slide into areas of cognitive thought would produce another negative result called, ‘government.’  There would also have to be a time limit established for the sensory sessions, some sort of fail safe switch, otherwise the subject would experience a numbing of the sensory system.  This may often be referred to as, ‘institutionalization.’  This already occurs in many large corporations, social service agencies, religions, educational organizations, and at heavy metal concerts.
     Eventually we would have to create an industry devoted to recovery and rehabilitation of persons who have consistently overdosed on holo-deck experiences.  After recovery these unfortunate individuals would have to commit themselves to a lifetime of group sessions where they discussed their addiction and what they do to avoid holo-decks.  Those with more money could afford private therapy.
     That was fun, but now, back to my question, “Is the new 3-D technology to become the new standard for motion pictures, as color film did in the 1950’s?”  My guess is that it will, but it will take time.
     Color films were made in the 1930’s; “Gone With the Wind”, “Wizard of Oz”, etc.  The production budgets were huge compared to the budgets of black and white films.  Then there were the artistic complaints of the lack of clarity and definition in the visual affects of the process and the lessening of the affects of black and white imaging, the inability to create starkness and drama by using light and shadow, etc.  Film noir took a hit.  WW2 put everything on hold in the early 1940’s, but by the 1950’s, with movies being the primary entertainment mode in America, the demand and the money was there for color movies to become the standard.
     History suggests that a similar scenario will develop with the new 3-D process.  However, since we don’t anticipate an interruption on the scale of WW2, the time frame will be shortened to about one decade, more or less.
     Although I find my tunnel vision warm and cozy, sometimes, I would like to hear others opinions on this question.  History takes so damned long to unfold. 


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