You may not know this, but the first 3D movie that got a wide release in theaters was Friday the 13th Part 3, which opened on 1,079 screens on August 13, 1982.
This was the big blockbuster summer of E.T., The Road Warrior, Rocky III, Poltergeist, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Thing, Tron, and many more.
Launched by the success of Friday the 13th Part 3, from ’82 to ’83 3D had a little comeback, but it was a trend that came and went, not the savior of the movie business. It didn’t last long for a number of reasons, the primary one being the movies were terrible.
3D was a passion of Frank Mancuso, who was Chairman and CEO of Paramount, and also brought the first Friday the 13th to the studio, which turned into a major goldmine.
To give you an idea how low rated 3D was then, the third Friday the 13th was also the first 3D movie released by a major studio in twenty-two years. (Funny enough, this was also the era that Jeffrey Katzenberg was at Paramount, who’s the main guy pushing 3D as the salvation of the business today.)
As reported in the Friday the 13th histories, Crystal Lake Memories by Peter Bracke, and Making Friday the 13th by David Grove, the movie cost about $2 million to make, but to redo the theaters with the right equipment to show the film cost about $10 million. As 3D supervisor Martin Jay Saoff recalled, “We had to basically go around and rebuild about 2,500 movie screens.”
It was this Friday the 13th that Jason finally found his hockey mask, and there’s several stories how this happened.
One member of the crew, Terry Ballard, had one, and director Steve Miner loved it, where Sandi Love, the costume designer, recalled a lot of the crew was Canadian, which of course meant they loved hockey, which also could have influenced Jason’s mask. Another story went the hockey mask was just meant for 3D test shots, and it stuck.
Friday the 13th Part 3 grossed a $36.6 million, making it one of the biggest 3D money makers pre-Avatar along with Jaws 3-D ($45 million), and the X-rated flick The Stewardesses, which reportedly grossed $27 million in North America, a big return on investment for a $40,000 movie.
Miner was also going to direct a 3D version of Godzilla when the 3D trend was still hot, but it never came together. (Miner’s 3D Godzilla was supposed to be out in 1984, and the screenplay was going to be written by Fred Dekker, creator of the cult classic The Monster Squad.)
Friday the 13th Part 3 was only available “flat” for home viewing for years, but you can now get it in 3D on DVD and Blu-ray.