To 3-D or not to 3-D? ‘Potter’ people disagree

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LONDON: Disappointed the new "Harry Potter" film won’t be in 3-D? Its star, Daniel Radcliffe, feels the opposite.

Radcliffe said he is delighted that the filmmakers and distributor Warner Bros. scrapped plans to convert "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" to 3-D. He also hopes they abandon their 3-D plans for "Part 2," due in theaters next July.

"If any film doesn’t need a gimmick, it’s these ones, and that’s for me what 3-D is," Radcliffe said in an interview. "For me, 3-D adds nothing to the story."

It does add to the box office, however. Movies available in both two- and three-dimensional projection often derive two-thirds or more of their revenue from 3-D versions, with fans willing to pay the few dollars extra it costs to put on the dorky glasses that bring the illusion of depth to the images.

The filmmakers had been racing to create a 3-D version of "Deathly Hallows" in time for its theatrical debut this week, but they said they ran out of time to do it right.

"We lavish a huge amount of attention and care on the 2-D version, the normal version of the film," said producer David Barron. "We were just not prepared to throw off what you might call some half-assed version just for the sake of trying to generate more money."

How much more money? There’s no way to pinpoint precisely what 3-D would have added to revenues for "Deathly Hallows," but producer David Heyman made an estimate.

"I think 10 to 20 percent, probably. On a film that’s going to make $800 million at the box office, that’s a lot of money," Heyman said. "Warner Bros. are going to have to alter their fourth-quarter projections because it’s not in 3-D."

As bad as that sounds for shareholders, it’s a rare instance of quality trumping commerce in greedy Hollywood. Warner Bros. pushed for a 3-D version but ultimately agreed to drop it once the filmmakers convinced studio heads it would be an inferior rush job.

Director David Yates, who shot both parts of "Deathly Hallows" simultaneously, said "lots of beautiful individual bits and pieces" of "Part 1" had been converted to 3-D, but other scenes simply did not look right.

With what the filmmakers learned on "Part 1" — and nearly eight months ahead of them — they are confident they can deliver a 3-D version of "Part 2" that lives up to the "Harry Potter" brand name.

"I think it’s going to be really cool," Yates said. "We’ve been working with people since May on the whole 3-D thing, so it’s not like we’re starting from scratch. I want it to work. I really want it to work."

There are moments in the 2-D version of "Part 1" where the possibilities of 3-D can be clearly seen, including a scene where a giant snake hurtles itself at the camera and another where Harry’s pet owl flies away from him toward the audience.

Such images were not created for 3-D jolt effect, though, since "Deathly Hallows" was not shot with 3-D in mind. The film was well into production before the digital 3-D craze took hold last year, culminating in James Cameron’s sci-fi sensation "Avatar."

Digital 3-D comes in two basic flavors: Films such as "Avatar" specifically shot with 3-D cameras that create two slightly offset images, and movies converted to 3-D after the fact.

Done well, footage converted to 3-D can look great. George Lucas showed an impressive 3-D conversion of the opening scenes of 1977’s "Star Wars" to theater owners at a convention in 2005, and the technology has advanced since then.

Lucas plans to release 3-D versions of all six "Star Wars" movies, while Cameron is converting "Titanic" for 3-D release.

As meticulous as Lucas and Cameron are, fans probably can expect top-of-the-line 3-D conversions. But some recent movies converted to 3-D have come off as hasty knockoffs to cash in on 3-D mania.

Critics carped that 3-D added little to such recent hits as "The Last Airbender," "Clash of the Titans" and even Tim Burton’s blockbuster "Alice in Wonderland." Some claimed 3-D conversion jobs actually can be a distraction, leaving images looking smudged and blurry.

Radcliffe is not a fan of 3-D even when it’s done well. He said that Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi blockbuster "Inception" was the year’s best film both visually and dramatically, "and that for me puts the 3-D argument to bed."

"Avatar,’ sure, it looked amazing, but not more amazing than Inception,’" Radcliffe said. "And I thought about Inception’ for so much longer because it was a better film, because it was a more interesting film. And I don’t think that technology is a substitute for story, which I think is how 3-D can sometimes be used."

Nolan, who also made "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," is not shooting his next Batman movie in 3-D, either.

Warner Bros., which released "Inception" and the Batman movies, may be counting on a 3-D bonanza from next summer’s finale to the "Harry Potter" franchise. Yet Radcliffe would like to see "Deathly Hallows: Part 1" work enough critical and commercial magic that the filmmakers and studio bosses will change their minds.

"What I’m hoping is that this film will get a good enough reaction so they all go, Maybe we don’t have to do the last one in 3-D. People don’t miss it.’ That’s what I’m hoping for," Radcliffe said. "But it’s sort of not in my control."


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