3D Movies Are No Passing Fad

These days, it seems like every movie they make is in 3D – horror movies, in particular – but 3D is nothing new. 3D photography first became popular in Victorian Times, thanks to David Brewster’s prism stereoscope. Though 3D motion pictures would not become popular for another century, they were being made as early as 1890, when pioneer, William Friese-Greene, patented his 3D movie process. Friese-Greene’s technology was too complicated for theatrical uses, but many filmmakers and studios were developing their own 3-D technology.

The Power of Love, the first 3D movie, debuted in 1922. Audience members wore anaglyph glasses, similar to the ones audiences wear today. The movie found no buyers, but aroused the public’s curiosity, and a handful of them were made over the next several years. The Selwyn Theater in New York even installed specialized equipment for 3D movies, but they had to be made using a specific process, which never caught-on, so 3D movie-making languished over the next decade.

In 1936, the first 3D motion picture, similar to those with which we are familiar, was released. The MGM short, made using the red/green anaglyph format, was printed by Technicolor and received an Academy Award nomination. MGM made two more 3D shorts before World War II erupted. These types of movies were once again put on the proverbial shelf.

The early 1950s would become known as “the Golden Age” of 3D movies. Comedy and horror were the most popular, but 3D movies and shorts spanned every genre, and many did quite well at the box office. However, there still existed no standard technology or process; every studio and individual developed their own methods, even built their own cameras. Other stereoscopic processing methods with fewer drawbacks were being developed as well – including Cinemascope and Cinerama – and 3D faded into the background once again.

While the 1970s saw an underground resurgence of 3D movies, most were for adults. It was the 1980s’ slasher flicks that brought them back into theaters, with such “classics” as Jaws 3-D and Friday the 13th Part 3-D. The method remained popular throughout the 1990s, thanks to IMAX theaters, even though the majority of them were not 3D-capable until 2004.

James Cameron, director of the record-smashing 3-D sci-fi epic, Avatar, has been the leader in 3-D technology and acceptance for many years now. Cameron and crew invented new 3-D camera technology and techniques, which he employed in the making of Avatar. These are now being adopted as the industry standards. He also convinced theater owners across America to invest the estimated $100,000 to retool their theaters to show 3D movies and, thanks to Avatar’s success, this trend has continued worldwide.

2009 saw the release of dozens of 3-Dimensional movies. The success of these and others, including Avatar, have convinced theater owners worldwide to invest in the technology needed to show 3-D movies the way they were meant to be seen. The movie studios’ scheduled releases through 2011 include numerous 3-D movies, proving that not only are they here to stay, they are just getting started!