City Lights: Seeing technology change, in 3D

Someone asked me the other day about the first specific event in my life that I can recall. After pondering for a moment, I realized that it was going to see "Return of the Jedi" at the Brea Mall in the summer of 1983. Of course, I have vague recollections of life before then, but if I had to piece together an actual timeline, it would start somewhere in Jabba's Palace when I was 3 years old.

My generation grew up taking "Star Wars" for granted. To people of my parents' generation, who once found "Mary Poppins" state-of-the-art, it was astonishing. And so it goes. Years after George Lucas' first trilogy, I stared in disbelief at "Terminator 2" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," which now look quaint next to "Avatar" and anything by Pixar.

Roger Ebert recently published an essay about how we see the world we grew up in as the standard of normalcy, and how technological advances in our later years often seem ill-fitting. I am several generations younger than Ebert, but I am aware that the media I immersed myself in as a child — videocassettes, Nintendo, hand-drawn animation — has gone the way of radio dramas and vinyl 45s.

But I'm not about to become a curmudgeon. This week, I visited the Cinemark Century Huntington Beach theater at Bella Terra to witness the delivery of Marchon3D's 3D glasses vending machine, and I smiled thinking of the future generations that will take it as a given.

3D, of course, is hardly a new phenomenon. According to Wikipedia, the technology dates back to the 1890s and became a craze during the 1950s. Still, it's safe to say that with the advent of computer animation, 3D has grown beyond a mere marketing gimmick and turned into an art form all its own.

Will the recent onslaught of 3D movies turn out to be a trend, or does it signal a lasting change in the movie industry? If the latter proves true, then the Bella Terra theater may go down someday as a historic site.

Marchon3D, a 3D eyewear company headquartered in New York, plans to roll out vending machines at 100 or more theaters over the next year, and Surf City is its first stop. The theater plans to introduce the machine to the public about 5 p.m. Friday.

The machine offers 18 styles of 3D glasses in different sizes, shapes and colors, with prices ranging from $22 to $30. (It may sound like a hefty fee, but the glasses are meant to be reused indefinitely.) The company, Divisional Vice President Mark McNabb said, aimed to improve on standard 3D glasses by offering comfortable fits and lenses that keep out extraneous light.

"At the end of the day, it's fun new technology that we get to play with," he said.

As one who marveled once at "Super Mario Bros.," I know the feeling.

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

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