In a discussion with my mother-in-law about How To Train Your Dragon, she mentioned to me an article she had read about Dreamworks’ tactics to “encourage” theaters to make room for the 3-D version of their film:
‘Dragon’ versus ‘Titans’ versus ‘Alice’ in fight over 3-D screens
Basically it comes down to this: if theaters with limited 3-D screens (usually just one) choose to keep Alice playing on those screens instead of replacing it with the 3-D version of Dragon, Dreamworks may withhold the 2-D version of Dragon as well. Ditto if theaters choose to show Paramount’s upcoming Clash of the Titans in 3-D instead.
To be sure, the sudden preponderance of 3-D enhanced films is in fact causing logistical problems — no argument there. In spite of the fact that I personally enjoyed Alice every bit as much (if not a bit more, perhaps) in 2-D as I did in 3-D, the fact remains that this trend in movie-making is very successful, and so is here to stay. The issue is that it costs money to outfit screens to show 3-D films, and theaters have some catching up to do.
Now, to be fair, I have to point out that I am a huge Disney fan. For years I have considered Dreamworks to be less innovative and more imitative of the Disney way of film-making, and continually falling short. That said, I don’t believe I am being overly biased when I say that these “public relations” tactics Dreamworks is choosing to employ with its associated theaters are tantamount to blackmail. I cannot see this as anything short of a lose-lose proposition. Again, as I posted in my review of Death Defying Acts, production companies need to keep their audiences in mind when they create their products. Yes, I wholeheartedly support artistic vision and expression. However, even I while writing this simple blog post am attempting to put myself in the position of my readers. I don’t spoil important plot points to the movies I discuss, I give honest assessments of what I watch, and when I have a bias I make sure to admit it. I assume that folks who read this want real and honest opinions, not regurgitations of stuff they could read somewhere else. But I digress….
In my mind, the basic mission of Dreamworks as a film production company is to provide quality entertainment to as many people as possible. So getting all cranky about the 2-D versus 3-D debate, to the point of threatening to basically take their toys and go home, runs afoul of their very mission. And it puts the theaters — with whom they should be partners, not adversaries — in a very uncomfortable position. Should they gamble and drop a lucrative film to make room for another one which may or may not perform as well? Can they afford to risk losing distribution rights to the film altogether? And, to be frank, will this affect their desire to continue a working relationship with Dreamworks?
If the ongoing economic climate has taught us nothing else, it has taught us this: there are precious few things any of us can take for granted anymore. Stability leads to growth by reinforcing relationships, not by testing them. In this, as well as so many other areas, the people involved need to get back to the basics and remember exactly why they are in business. Dreamworks could argue that they are pushing the issue for the benefit of the consumer, but it is painfully obvious that they are only out for themselves. By denying consumers access to their product, for whatever reason, they are shooting themselves in the collective foot.
I will be interested to hear what happens to these smaller theaters for whom this presents a real problem. The theaters near me have a sufficient number of 3-D screens as to pretty much render the argument moot. But if any of you readers live in an area affected by this little tantrum by Dreamworks, please let me know what happens. I personally would love to see a smaller theater give Dreamworks the smackdown and just go without Dragons.
We all know it won’t be as good as Alice, anyway. 😉
Very well put, Lisa! I, too, would like to see one of the smaller theaters stand up to Dreamworks. It would be risky, but too often today we put our pocketbooks ahead of our principles, doing the comfortable thing rather than the right thing. (I can’t believe I just said that about a couple of movies, for Pete’s sake!)
But if enough people cared, I could see a small theater making a big point out of this. I would certainly rally with them. Or maybe Dreamworks will get enough negative publicity that they’ll re-think their tactics. That would be nice – but I’m not holding my breath.