Should ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1’ have come out in 3-D?


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Squinting into the $125 million that ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1’ took in this weekend in the U.S. alone, it’s easy to forget that it was just six weeks ago when some were questioning Warner Bros.’ decision not to convert the film into 3-D. Moviegoers loved Potter, and they seemed to like putting on those glasses, so why not combine the two?

Yes, there was the possibility of a backlash -- but even ‘Clash of the Titans,’ that poster child for sloppy conversions, was one of the most successful movies of the year, the argument went. And ‘Clash’ was no ‘Potter.’


Yet when the seventh installment of the Hogwarts series came out this weekend and fans flocked to it, it silenced most of those questions. Even in two dimensions, the movie marked the biggest-ever opening of the series; Potter has somehow managed to retain all of the 20-something fans who grew up with the series while attracting a lot of younger ones too.

It’s now the case that the two biggest openings of the year (‘Iron Man 2’ is the other) happened with movies that stayed far away from the Z-axis And although ‘Iron Man’ and Potter are, granted, sui generis, it’s also the case that by the time ‘Deathly Hallows’ ends its theatrical run, four of the top five live-action movies in 2010 will have been in 2-D (‘Eclipse’ and ‘The Karate Kid’ are the other two; ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is the lone exception). And all this in the supposed golden era of 3-D.

You could argue that these 2-D movies would have made even more money had they come out in 3-D. But it’s of course impossible to know if doing that wouldn’t have turned off at least some portion of the fan base. Certainly that would have been a concern for Potter, which remains one of the few billion-dollar corporate juggernauts in American life to be treated as such a pure and fan-driven enterprise.

The counter-arguers say that the biggest movies don’t need 3-D the way others do. But, in a sense, that only confirms what critics of 3-D have been saying for a while now: that, maybe ‘Avatar’ and some animated movies excepted, 3-D is a novelty suited best to middling movies, essentially a marketing gimmick and/or a chance to collect a few extra dollars in ticket fees.

I suppose you could argue that watching Harry, Ron and Hermione attempt to destroy the Horcruxes in three dimensions this weekend would have been better than watching them in two dimensions (though I suspect most fans wouldn’t). But it’s kind of getting harder to argue that, for a truly beloved property, 3-D is necessary or even relevant.

-- Steven Zeitchik



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