Group of people at the cinema watching a movie

By David Byrnes

It’s safe to say that the backlash against the use of 3D is in full swing. Granted, it still has an audience but the numbers are dwindling and the vocal outrage ever increasing. But in order to maintain an audience, cinema has always relied on some form of gimmick. Silent movies fought off freak shows of the time, then came sound, then colour. Before long, screens were getting, the image crisper and sound clearer. However, there has always been one constant in the long and storied history of cinema and that is 3D.

It’s history can be traced back as far as 1894, however the first commercial use of 3D in cinema was in 1920 with the showing of ‘The Power Of Love’ using a system developed by renowned cinematographer Robert F Elder. Several tests and numerous fails saw 3D drop out of favour until the 1970’s. The latter part of the decade and the early 80’s saw many naff slasher flicks cash in on the trend (just like today). Before long 3D once again limped off into the shadows, a forgotten relic of cinemas red and blue past. With the increasing influence of IMAX , several dabbles were made in the early 2000’s. But it wasn’t until the release of Avatar in 2009. Ever since then and with ever improving technology, 3D has seen a boom like never before.

Yet, it wasn’t long until the experience soured. The blame lies with the sheer number of utter arse that has decided to use 3D as a way to get an extra buck or two – Piranha, John Carter, Resident Evil, Alice in Wonderland to name but a few. I remember being told that the pornography industry (yes I know, but stick with me on this) could be the only thing to save 3D. Think about it, VHS tapes became dominant (and nearly killed off cinema) due to porn. The same for can be said for DVD, the internet, smartphones. They all soared to dominance thanks to so many lying on their back, upside down, facing the wall…what was I talking about?

Anyway, so if the future of cinema is not that of 3D than what is? A few years ago I happened to work for the Movies @ cinema franchise and when 3D movies were dwindling, attendance for alternative content began to increase slowly but surely. Before long, screenings of the Wimbledon Finals, opera performances such as The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables began to sell out and became the top attraction for us. Ok so opera, plays and musicals may not be to everyone’s taste.  It wasn’t until 2012 with a live screening of Westlife’s farewell concert at Croke Park that I became a believer…Westlife are the greatest band of our generation. Not really (that honour lies with U2). I happened to walk into Screen 1 during the performance and was taken aback by the carnival atmosphere. People were up dancing, a few sneaked in wine, arms were in the air swaying in tune with the music, even glow sticks made a rare appearance outside of a 90′ rave! I had never seen anything like it in a cinema before.

Although my time there came to an end, I’ve kept up with the trends in various cinema chains yet none have matched Movies @ for their sheer determination to see live, alternative content become a mainstay on our screens. Cinemas are now looking for the next big thing to attract customers and fend off the likes of Netflix and Amazon, could alternative content be just that very attraction? I honestly believe it is.  Cinemagoers no longer care for fancy trinkets, bells and whistles. The novelty of  donning 3D glasses has waned, 3D itself is on life support and a longing for a simpler time has begun. Like I said earlier, crisp sound and clear image.  With the ever increasing numbers attending alternative and live screenings, the success has seen Movies @ branch out into rugby, football and maybe one day gaming. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to play multiplayer Mario Kart on the biggest screen imaginable. Maybe one day, we won’t have to imagine…maybe one day, it will become a reality.

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