IMAX and the future of 3D movies – James Cameron’s Reflexive Point of View

Fascinating Forbes article here about perception and reality in relation to 3-D movies:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorothypomerantz/2011/09/21/how-james-cameron-hopes-to-defeat-the-3-d-hype-cycle/?partner=yahootix

James Cameron’s Reflexive View

Reflexivity is based on the theory that perceptions influence reality, and reality influences perceptions. A misperception could influence reality just as much as an accurate perception.

Here is Gartner’s prediction of the public perception of a hyped trend:

Hype over time. (c) Gartner.

As James Cameron points out, the chart represents perception, not what is certain to be reality. But, he also points out the possible risk in this scenario.

If the “Trough of Disillusionment” grows too great, that is, if the studio’s misperception about the state of 3-D persists, and the public’s willingness to spend on 3-D remains at low levels, studios may act on that misperception, and actually change the reality of 3-D movies – they will stop rolling out 3-D features.

James Cameron’s approach is to alter the studio’s perception by re-releasing a blockbuster, Titanic, in 3-D, at great expense of time and money, so that studios will follow suit. Perhaps it is working; Star Wars, Episode I: the Phantom Menace, is scheduled to be re-released in 3D next year.

I am not as optimistic as Cameron on the future for 3-D as an omnipresent technology. I believe that the roll-out of cable television in 3-D will not be widely accepted until 3-D technology no longer requires glasses to view. Since Cameron mentions that television is instrumental to 3-D technology becoming ubiquitous, and since the state of 3-D television and 3-D movies influence each other, I believe we are far from that time currently.

I think that the real reason behind this trough of disillusionment is that the studios have simply not rolled out movies that were visually stunning enough. No movie has come close to what Avatar did in terms of visual effects.

For a movie to be truly worth the extra cost of 3-D, they have to play with depth perception. Vast shots, landscapes, and explosions all hold promise. But perhaps most promising is outer space.

No Science Fiction movies with wide mainstream appeal have hit theaters this summer. I feel that the kind of fandom that Science Fiction engenders is unrivaled across the genres. Sci-Fi fans are probably more willing to spend extra to improve their experience.

This is why I think that a Star Wars 3-D reboot is a great idea. The fact that the Phantom Menace is coming out next year only reinforces my idea that the 2012 upside for IMAX is enormous.

Conclusion

If the theaters continue to avoid the kinds of movies that 3-D truly benefits from, this could translate into increased disillusionment, and decreased spending by studios on 3-D conversions. This constitutes a MAJOR RISK to IMAX. In fact, this misperception may have already started a reflexive process to the downside of 3-D movies, that may be unavoidable, even with the 2012 movie slate.

If studios decide to continue 3-D re-releases of an old franchises, and the likely blockbusters of 2012 (Avengers, Hobbit, Amazing Spider Man, Dark Knight Rises, Men In Black III) are successful in 3-D as well as 2-D, then perhaps this reflexive process can be undermined.

Time will tell on this one. I am considering purchasing more shares of IMAX, believing we are only in a “testing” period of the public’s fascination for 3-D movies that will end when more appropriate 3-D movies come out.

Disclosure: I own shares of IMAX.

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