It’s been said that right before a big breakthrough a lot of neurosis can come to the surface, and perhaps this is what’s going on with the opening of Transformers 3D next week.
In addition to what’s supposed to be one of the big blockbusters of the summer, Transformers is also being looked at as a crucial film in whether 3D will survive or not, which could explain the pre-release anxiety.
What else is the anxiety over? Projector bulbs. According to reports in The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times, Michael Bay is pleading with theaters to show the film “in a way that burns out projector bulbs more quickly but makes 3D look brighter and sharper.”
Deadline has also reported Paramount is pressuring theaters to play Transformers in 3D at the early Tuesday screenings, or they won’t be allowed to play the movie, period. (Paramount chairman Brad Gray has stated, “We’re putting out our resources into this,” and that “It’s the most spectacular visual experience I have ever seen.”)
Back in the day when a movie didn’t open at thousands of screens at once, some directors would actually test out the theaters themselves before their movies played, and if the theaters didn’t live up to their standards, they wouldn’t get the movie.
This happened with The Exorcist, and as director William Friedkin told the L.A. Times, “I knew the names of all the projectionists. I had them replace the screen at the Mann Theater in Minneapolis. I told them I wouldn’t send the print if they didn’t fix it, and they believed me. I sent guys from Warners to check the light on the screen. I called very theater every day for six months to check to make sure the sound levels were right. I loved it. I could control the way audiences saw it.”
In Vincent Lobrutto’s biography of Stanley Kubrick, there’s also a story about a theater playing A Clockwork Orange where there was too much shiny light reflection on the ceiling from the screen. Kubrick had the theater repaint the ceiling black, then when light was still bouncing off the ceiling, Kubrick had them repaint it a darker shade of black.
In the grander scheme of things, Star Wars was the big game changer where theaters had to change their sound systems or they couldn’t get the film. (Quincy Jones also recalled in his autobiography that two other movies also lead the way for theaters redoing their sound systems the same year, Saturday Night Fever and The Turning Point.)
As for whether Transformers can keep 3D going, one poster on Deadline wrote that 3D is “like Iraq…badly planned, badly executed, badly mismanaged, far too costly, questionable results…with no exit strategy.”