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Lion King’ revives reign of 3-D movies

Just a few weeks ago, the death of 3-D was upon us.

Films such as “Fright Night,” “Conan the Barbarian” and “Shark Night 3-D” all bombed at the box office, and when given the option audiences always chose to flock to the 2-D screenings. It seemed as if the world had finally had enough of the surcharges, the glasses and dimness that comes with the 3-D technology.

Then something strange happened.

“The Lion King,” a 17-year-old animated film from Walt Disney Pictures, was re-released with a 3-D conversion. Not only did it make a lot of money; it topped the box office for two straight weeks, beating out such critically lauded new releases as “Drive” and “Moneyball.” Just as the world was preparing for 3-D’s funeral, it came roaring back from the dead.

Why the sudden end to 3-D fatigue? Why did audiences choose to leave their homes, pay the surcharges and spend two hours seeing a movie they could have just watched on their couch?

It’s because 3-D can actually be really cool when done correctly.

Take the film that started this whole 3-D trend: James Cameron’s “Avatar.” There are countless problems with this film’s storytelling and characters, but it was so incredibly successful due to its brilliant use of the technology. Cameron was able to create a fully imagined world that literally popped off the screen. He understood that great 3-D is not thrown at the audience, but rather shown to the audience.

The downside is that whenever a movie makes a ton of money, Hollywood tries to replicate it as many times as possible. Of all the films released in 3-D since “Avatar,” very few of them have actually needed the extra dimension. One of the obvious examples is the recent “Fright Night,” which never took advantage of the technology. When you are just dealing with human beings in the real world, there’s nothing that would suggest 3-D is at all necessary. In this situation, it just made the film look uglier.

In an ideal world, the release of a 3-D film would be a special cinematic event and not the norm. Right now, most moviegoers tend to groan at the prospect of a 3-D screening. Hollywood needs to make it so that watching a 3-D film is something to get excited about. People went to see “The Lion King” again because the conversion promised that they would see something new and exciting, albeit in a familiar package. A 3-D screening of “Fright Night” promised nothing more than a plain old suburban neighborhood. That isn’t worth the price of admission.

3-D is like cinematic junk food; it is best consumed sparingly. That way, when an audience sits down and puts on the glasses, it’s a special experience. When it’s shoved down our throats week after week, it just winds up turning an entire nation off. People go to the movies to see something new, and that’s twice as true for 3-D. When they fork over the extra $4, the experience had better be worth every last cent. Anything less than the next “Avatar,” and it’s going to seem downright sluggish.

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