Avatar is now the highest-grossing movie of all-time, having racked up over $2.7 billion in ticket sales, a substantial portion of that from 3D screenings. Naturally the titanic success of the film, coupled with the high grosses for Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, Clash of The Titans and How To Train Your Dragon, mean we’ll be seeing a lot more movies in 3D. But should all films go that route? I got the chance to chat up Avatar and Titanic producer Jon Landau at a recent press event in New York and to ask him what he thinks of the future of the 3D movie format.
Obviously Avatar has revolutionized 3D movies. Do you think Hollywood will be able to produce similar films in the future without such a huge budget?
I think 3D is not an expensive process, especially for live action movies. Ultimately I think all movies are going to be 3D. I think a movie like My Dinner With Andre would be heightened in 3D. You’re seeing companies like Panasonic now come out with prosumer 3D cameras. I think that’s the key, to be able to put cameras in the young filmmakers’ hands that allow them to do their productions cost effectively.
Do you think that every release should be in 3D?
Really? Do you think romantic comedies would be enhanced by being in 3D?
Absolutely. Would you do a movie today with mono sound? 3D is the visual equivalent in a visual medium of what sound is. You wouldn’t have it any other way. And why now? Because we can. We see our lives in 3D. I think all of our screens are going to go to 3D. I think our computer screens are going to go to 3D, our televisions are going to go to 3D, our mobile devices. We spend most of our time looking at screens. Windows or Macintosh, either way you want — it’s a poor man’s version of 3D.
Do you think people will be able to view older 2D films in the same way in the future?
It’s like black-and-white. There are movies that are going to hold up over time. Casablanca holds up over time. There are other movies that my kids aren’t interested in because it’s a black-and-white movie. Ultimately I think it’s going to be the same thing.
Which movies would like to see retrofitted in 3D?
I think you [should] only retrofit a movie if the filmmaker is still with us to be a part of the retrofit because I think that 3D is a creative process, not a technical process. So if Steven Spielberg wants to go do E.T. in 3D, I would love to see that. But I don’t think we can take a David Lean movie and make it [in 3D] because David is no longer with us.
Some people were certainly appalled by those Fred Astaire vacuum commercials made by Dirt Devil after his death.
Clash Of The Titans has received a lot of criticism for its substandard 3D because they retrofitted it during production.
But they did it technically. See, it’s not a technical process. It’s an artistic process. You can convert a movie, but you need to treat it like an artistic process. If you’re shooting a movie today and want it in color, would you ever shoot it in black-and-white and convert it? No. Why convert a movie to 3D when you can shoot it in 3D, especially when you don’t allow the filmmaker to be a part of the process?
Your career certainly emphasizes the “quality over quantity” approach to filmmaking. You produced the two highest-grossing movies of all time, but obviously there was a gap in new releases since Avatar took several years to make. Are you going to take a break?
No. For me, for Jim, movies are about finding something that fuels a flame of passion. If that happens tomorrow, I would love it. If that doesn’t happen for a year or two, that would be fine, too. No movie is easy to make. We put too much of ourselves into any one movie to just do it for the sake of doing it.
Avatar is only being released on home video now with the movie and no bonus features because they are using the best bit rate possible. What bit rate is it going to be at?
Technically I don’t even know, but every bit of the disc goes to the film and for the menus.
What special features will come up in the subsequent reissues?
We are going to do a four-disc edition that will have a two-hour plus documentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes and all of that.