Talkback: Is Jeffrey Katzenberg Right About 3-D?
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in the wake of Kung Fu Panda 2's disappointing box office performance, DreamWorks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg had some choice words for those other studios that have dropped the ball on 3-D theatrical releases. "We're not the problem," he said, pointing non-specifically to competing 3-D releases that have turned audiences off the 3-D viewing experience, ruining it for everyone. So, who is?
Every studio who's been forcing 3-D upon their films to turn a profit, apparently. See, moviegoers aren't the only ones complaining about the sub-par 3-D experience; Katzenberg, like his fellow forward-thinking compatriots, still believes in the future of 3-D -- good 3-D.
But poorly executed post-converted 3-D movies -- like, say, everyone's favorite post-conversion punching bag, Clash of the Titans -- have taught audiences the hard way that paying extra for 3-D isn't worth the dim, sub-par picture quality.
"I think 3D is right smack in the middle of its terrible twos. We have disappointed our audience multiple times now, and because of that I think there is genuine distrust -- whereas a year and a half ago, there was genuine excitement, enthusiasm and reward for the first group of 3D films that actually delivered a quality experience. Now that's been seriously undermined."
Not that DreamWorks is doing any undermining. "We have made five films now in 3D and have built this amazing reservoir of knowledge and tools. Nobody else has made five 3D movies back to back. You can see the quality of the experience increasing with every film."
Also, higher ticket prices aren't to blame. If every 3-D movie delivered a worthy viewing experience, Katzenberg says, more people would shell out the extra bucks. Just as you do for fancy iced tea, says Katz! (But would they, really? Does the average moviegoer taking the family to a weekend flick want to pay more for the stereoscopic experience?)
"Quite frankly, there's no industry in the world that doesn't attempt to move up the customer to a premium experience. I don't care whether you make shoes or wine or iced tea or cars, everybody tries to create multiple price points. So why shouldn't we be in the same business of offering our customers a premium experience at a premium price -- as long as we deliver them a premium value? If we cheat them, which is what has happened now too many times, then they'll walk away from it."
Finally: Katzenberg expects Transformers: Dark of the Moon to "exceed expectations," THR reports. Fingers crossed that Michael Bay will strike one for the good guys. The good guys being the purist warriors in the ongoing battle for quality 3-D and huge profits, that is.
In sum, DreamWorks has been doing their part to make 3-D a bona fide movement and not just some gimmicky fad. So when Kung Fu Panda 2 failed to reap the rewards promised by the 3-D dream -- causing a mild panic on Wall Street that may or may not add up -- it wasn't their fault. Critical reviews support this: Kung Fu Panda 2 ran an 84 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes (just shy of the first film's 88 percent) and featured widely praised 3-D animation.
So maybe Katzenberg is right; in the weeks leading up to Kung Fu Panda 2's release, neither Thor nor Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides delivered must-see 3-D. Projection dimness and lazy exhibition has emerged a nationwide issue among theatergoers, further diminishing the moviegoing experience. Having made every effort to produce a stellar 3-D experience, did Kung Fu Panda 2 simply suffer from opening in a period of widespread buyer skepticism -- a summer in which no blockbuster tentpole has proven the added value of watching a film in 3-D?