The State of 3D Movies: Gravity of Story

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When we did our Ang Lee Life of Pi interview, he told us that when 3D is used as a tool to tell a story it is a case of medium meeting technology that works. Before Gravity made a two-week run atop the box office, 3D accounted for barely over 30 percent of ticket sales after a spike in interest post-Avatar.

The fact that 80 percent of Gravity ticket sales have been for 3D only emphasizes Lee's point.

Gravity Photo

Martin Scorsese clearly agreed with Lee when he made Hugo using 3D. And so too did Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron. Both Hugo and Life of Pi would bask in Oscar nominations and victories. Lee's 2013 win could easily prelude a trophy for Cuaron. But we leave that to our Oscar Watch column to sort out.

The state of 3D would seem to be pretty good. But, one should not label a format's success -- or failure -- based on one movie's blockbuster run.

Overall, 3D seems to be something that Hollywood is still blinded by. Whether it's conversion after shooting or using 3D cams on set, there is still an avalanche of movies coming at audience's faces in three dimensions for the foreseeable future. Ask most moviegoers their opinion on 3D versus 2D and they will reflect those pre-Gravity numbers in terms of their willingness to not only pay to see a movie in 3D, but even attend one.

The Great Gatsby is a perfect example. The film was shot in 3D by Baz Luhrmann and it looked incredible. In our The Great Gatsby review, we called it “beautiful and stunning.”

Life of Pi Suraj Sharma

Yet, the film did not kill at the box office in terms of 3D tickets. It may have earned $145 million domestically, but its budget was $105 million. And a majority of those tickets were for the 2D screenings. It’s a sensational story from F. Scott Fitzgerald, it’s just that both the 1970s version and Luhrmann’s each failed to capture the essence of what makes Fitzgerald’s tale so towering.

Returning to Gravity, this is one film that -- as they say -- has legs. As word of mouth pairs with its box office success, people will continue to flock to see this stunner. And they will see it in not only 3D, but IMAX 3D. When scale can match the emotional power of a film, success will always follow.

And in the end… no matter what we’re talking about in terms of the movie business, it all comes down to story. And Gravity is a case of a perfect storm of a stellar story, impeccable 3D that pushes that story’s emotional pull and a director at the top of his game.

It worked for Hugo, Life of Pi and now Gravity. Our question is not “When will Hollywood learn?” Ours is… what will be the next film that will be added to that 3D trifecta of excellence? 

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Gravity Quotes

Matt Kowalski: Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission.
Mission Control: Please elaborate.
Matt Kowalski: Well, it reminds of a story.

I get it. It's nice up here. You can just shut down all the systems, turn out all the lights, and just close your eyes and tune out everyone. There's nobody up here that can hurt you. It's safe. I mean, what's the point of going on? What's the point of living? Your kid died. Doesn't get any rougher than that. But still, it's a matter of what you do now. If you decide to go, then you gotta just get on with it. Sit back, enjoy the ride. You gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start livin' life. Hey, Ryan? It's time to go home.

Matt Kowalski

Gravity Review

One of the most surprising things about the release of Gravity on DVD and Blu-Ray is one realizes how powerful the Alfonso Cuaron story...

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