Titans to Clash in 3D: The Conversion Begins

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Big news from Warner Bros. yesterday. Clash of the Titans, which had already been bumped back from its original release date, will now hit theaters April 2 as a full-fledged 3D experience.

This comes on the heels of the news that Warner Bros. is planning to release a whole slate of 2010 films in 3D:  From Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (best title of a film that you’ll never pay to see)  to Guardians of Ga’Hoole and Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, Part 1.

Even before Avatar, the push to go 3D was obvious. Higher ticket prices, a unique gimmick for the kids, and a way to draw people out of their living rooms and into the theater. But now, thanks to the unprecedented success of Avatar, studios are envisioning 3D as the cornerstone of their marketing campaigns. There are even reports that converting a 2D title into 3D costs as little as $5 million. If I ran a studio, you better believe that just about every action or family film I produced would be rolling out nationwide with a 3D premium attached.

I think something like Clash of the Titans – which we’ll be covering closer to release – could make a great 3D property. I’m assuming it’s a film that won’t take itself too seriously, will boast some spectacular effects sequences, and will focus on being the “big” sort of film that demands to be seen in the theater.

But with many other titles, conventional 3D simply doesn’t offer much – beyond obvious sight gags that don’t really impress anyone over the age of 4. Even more troublesome: The notion of “converting” films from 2D to 3D is the exact opposite of what James Cameron did with Avatar. He set out to make a 3D movie, and the production was designed around a 3D state of mind. He used it as a deliberate, artistic choice, and in the process raised the bar for all 3D ventures.

Will 3D conversions feel like a letdown in a post-Avatar world?

I feel as if we’re now at a crossroads in terms of 3D blockbusters. Will more tent pole films adopt a 3D production mindset, or will it merely be more of the same, converting a 2D project into a 3D print? Given all that’s happened recently with the Spider-Man franchise, it would seem that studios want filmmakers to start thinking of 3D as a source of creative inspiration, rather than simply an afterthought. But even if they started now, we won’t see such films until 2011 or 2012.

For 2010, 3D conversion is the name of the game. For better or worse.