"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" scored a box office record this weekend, making nearly $85 million. That's the biggest December opening for a movie...ever. The fantasy adventure is in wide release on more than 4000 screens and there are oh-so-many ways you can watch it.
I called my local theater here in Southern California to find out how many options I had for viewing it there, and the exchange went something like this:
Burbank AMC 16: Thank you for calling the Burbank AMC 16, how can I help you?
Meraji: Hi, I have a question about 'The Hobbit,' how many different ways are you guys showing it?
Burbank AMC 16: You have the IMAX 3D which is in the High Frame Rate, regular 2D, ETX 3D which is not High Frame Rate but it is mastered for Dolby Atmos, and then you have regular 3D.
That adds up to four different ways to see "The Hobbit" in just one theater -- and there are even more options out there.
"It's kind of like going to the grocery store and you want to go get cereal and there's a hundred different cereals to choose from," says Brian Udovich, a movie producer with Rough and Tumble Films. "The studio is trying to give you whatever options you want."
Udovich says that in a case like "The Hobbit," a movie that people are going to watch no matter what, it makes smart business sense to offer a range of viewing experiences at different price points. Which takes me back to my phone call with the Burbank AMC 16.
Burbank AMC 16: The IMAX 3D is going to cost the most, the ETX will be a dollar or two less than that, regular 3D will be just underneath that and regular 2D will be the base price.
That's a $6 difference between regular 2D and Imax 3D at the Burbank AMC 16 in Southern California. Across the country in New York, Rezwana Zafar is waiting at a theater in Times Square to see "The Hobbit," and she's opting to see it in old-fashioned 2D.
"I'm not a big fan of 3D," says Zafar, "and I'm skeptical about the new technology that's out. I heard a lot of reviews about it being too realistic and you can see the set." Zafar says she doesn't want to pay more money for that kind of realism.
But L.A.-based film producer Brian Udovich says it's not just about money, it's about advancing the art form.
"They're trying something and maybe it will catch and maybe it won't but this has always happened in any art form," he says. "If you look at cinema, it went from a silent to a talkie, it went from black and white to color."
And that's why, Udovich says, with all the choices before him, he's going to see "The Hobbit" the way director Peter Jackson intended -- in High Frame Rate 3D.
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