25 February 2010

Alice in... Where? (UPDATE)

Time has shown that Tim Burton's "reimaginings" can often pan out as inferior versions. For every Batman, there's a Planet of the Apes. For every Sleepy Hollow, there's a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In terms of disappointment though, at least it can be said that all of those films made it into cinemas in the UK.

But today, The Guardian is reporting that the three biggest cinema chains in the UK- Odeon, Cineworld and Vue- may actually boycott Burton's latest, a 3D reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, after Disney shortened the wait for the film's DVD release to just 12 weeks after its cinema release on March 5th. This is part of a scheme by Disney to make the turnaround from cinema to home video faster, which is obviously not good for cinemas that sometimes struggle to make a profit in an industry where DVDs don't come out too long after their initial release and piracy is rife.

Personally, I can't see this boycott occurring. Yeah, it's not just a news piece- I'm still whacking you with my views. Alice in Wonderland is projected to make £40m at the UK box office. Moreover, it's one of the most anticipated films of the year, playing in that most steadfast of cinematic gimmicks, 3D. One of the two sides will back down, or else everyone will lose out.

Both sides are pressing their point to make more money out of the film, and so neither are likely to let it rest at a point where they both lose out. Apparently a similar truncation of Up's run was planned so that Disney could release that film on DVD and blu-ray before Christmas, and was stopped when the chains threw their dummies out of their prams by threatening to boycott A Christmas Carol.

However, the one thing these three films have in common is that they're all in Disney Digital 3D, and that exhibits only how the technology has a single advantage- profit for studios and cinemas. With Avatar continuing to rake in money- now in its eighth week atop the UK box office and having surpassed Mamma Mia! as the highest grossing film in UK box office history- studios have been falling over themselves to release things in 3D, and the cinemas are happy to enable them.

I've got no problem with anything that gets more people into the cinema, but there must come a stage when audiences realise the sole benefit of 3D isn't helping them one bit. It's not immersive- it's expensive. The irony of the technology's renaissance is that it's now making its way into homes, with Sky promising a 3D channel later this year, and so the cinema needs ever more annoying gimmicks to draw people away from home entertainment.

This to me is the equivalent of DVDs having a "dickheads' commentary"- the recreation of a night at the cinema in the UK with an audio track of chavs talking, texting and generally being twatty overlaid on the film. It just won't happen. The only reason the chains have kicked up a stink about this is because it's in 3D. If Disney wanted to release The Princess and the Frog on DVD next month, I bet there wouldn't be nearly as much of a problem.

Whether or not Alice in Wonderland succeeds or fails as an entertaining film, with Johnny Depp looking like Madonna and the distinct vibes of Narnia-style action in the trailer, is being overshadowed by how successful it will be financially, and no one can tell me that makes 3D the way forward for film.

UPDATE: Told you so. Alice in Wonderland is released on March 5th, and on DVD 13 weeks later. Stick it to 'em, Odeon- make them wait another week.

An interesting addendum though- Disney have said they want to release the film before the World Cup. Surely for the majority of people in the UK who aren't arsed about England's chances (yes, the majority- those TV ratings don't even encompass a third of the population, usually), DVD releases would serve as effective counter-programming. I have my doubts about Burton's Wonderland, but I'm sure I'd much rather be watching that than a bunch of over-paid and occasionally promiscuous morons kicking a ball around and getting knocked out in the quarter final stages.

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