Monday, January 11, 2010

Warning: Avatar Glasses Unsafe for Use as Sunglasses

I went to see the movie Avatar in Harvard Square on Friday and the theater was packed, even though the movie came out 3 weeks ago. I had to sit in the front row, which I usually hate. With my 3-D glasses, it felt like much of the movie was taking place right in front of me, some parts almost in my lap. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Avatar may not be the most original story, the smartest dialog, or the sharpest acting but the visual stunning film work puts it all together. And the 3-D glasses have the added bonus of disappearing the audience around you into a dark, hazy blur. This may be the new way to watch movies.

The new RealD 3-D glasses issued for viewing are not the old-school 3-D paper glasses with different colored lenses. They are Risky Business-style dark glasses. But be warned (in English, Spanish, and French):

"The glasses do not screen ultraviolet light. Wearing them as sunglasses will not protect your eyes. Use only in the theater. Keep out of reach of children under 3."

Propelled in part by tickets that cost $3 or $4 more than usual (for the 3-D glasses?), Avatar has been tracking very, very well in U.S. domestic ticket sales:

5 days to take in $100 million.
10 days to take in $200 million.
15 days to take in $300 million.
23 days to take in $400 million.

Only 2 movies have reached $500 million, The Dark Knight in 45 days and Titanic in 98 days. Avatar seems on track to hit that next weekend. Titanic took 252 days to reach $600 million, the only movie to make that much domestically. Avatar may be there by the end of the month.

Internationally, Avatar is doing even better. Avatar has moved into the #2 position with $1,189,940,297 in ticket sales worldwide. That’s nearly two-thirds of the way to Titanic’s #1 spot of $1,848,813,795.

Don’t cry for Titanic losing the record. Titanic’s director, James Cameron, also directed Avatar. He’s got an impressive list of blockbuster movies to his credit:

Avatar (2009) - $429,040,297 and counting
Titanic (1997) - $600,788,188
True Lies (1994) - $146,282,411
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - $204,859,496
The Abyss (1989) - $54,243,125
Aliens (1986) - $85,160,248
The Terminator (1984) - $38,019,031

I saw 3-D previews for four movies that looked interesting: Alice in Wonderland (March 5, 2010), Shrek Forever After (May 21, 2010), Piranha 3-D (April 16, 2010), and Despicable Me (July 9, 2010). I’ll probably skip the Piranha movie, and also Jackass 3D (October 15, 2010) which wasn’t previewed but is also coming, but will be ready to go to the movies for Spider-Man 4 in 3-D (May 6, 2011). Up, which I saw on DVD, would have been even better in 3-D in the movie theater.

So is 3-D going to be the new way to watch movies? At least in the movie theater, maybe so. All the new animated features from Dreamworks are being shown in 3-D. Live action may follow, especially in big movies such as Avatar where live action is mixed with animation or digital special effects. This is, I think, the first feature movie I’ve seen in 3-D in the movie theater. It won’t be the last.

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