3D Cinema: Is It Worth The Extra Money?

3D Cinema: Is It Worth The Extra Money?

In today’s cinema, 3D is almost as synonymous with the movies as popcorn. You simply can’t escape it. Even classic films that were released decades ago are getting dusted off for some 3D treatment, alongside an endless stream of shiny comic book movie sequels. If you’ve been holding off from 3D cinema due to the inflated ticket prices or fear of motion sickness, here are the facts you need to know.

Earlier in the week, we were invited to an advanced media screening of Jurassic Park 3D — a remastered version of Spielberg’s original 1993 action blockbuster. The film remains a fun romp that’s well worth seeing on the big screen — but we wouldn’t say the experience is particularly enhanced by the addition of a third dimension.

3D Cinema: Is It Worth The Extra Money?

This isn’t too surprising given that the film was never intended to be shown in 3D, but it did get us thinking about the viability of medium as a whole; particularly to the eyes of newcomers who have been late to the party. Here are a few questions that are worth exploring before you slap down your hard earned cash on 3D movie tickets.

How Much More Does It Cost?

3D Cinema: Is It Worth The Extra Money?

Money picture from Shutterstock

On average, a 3D movie will cost you around $5 extra per ticket. This is a pretty significant premium if you’re paying for a date or the rest of your family. If you bring your own 3D glasses, some cinemas will reduce the price of the ticket, although the savings are usually in the region of $1 which is hardly worth it.

Naturally, cinema chains try to push their more expensive 3D movies as much as possible. The 2D version of the same movie will always be screened less frequently, often during inconvenient times of the day. If you want to watch the 2D version, you definitely need to check the session times in advance.

Will I Get Motion Sickness?

3D Cinema: Is It Worth The Extra Money?

Sick picture from Shutterstock

Some people simply don’t gel with 3D. It makes them dizzy, uncomfortable and nauseous. Lifehacker editor Angus Kidman is one such viewer and he has blacklisted all 3D movies as a result:

3D movies are an absolute no-go for me. The second I start watching through a pair of 3D glasses, I feel nauseous (this has made for some awkward conversation at launches for 3D TV manufacturers). The only way I want to force myself to feel nauseous is when I’m drinking. Realistically, this isn’t an issue most of the time, since most movies that are made in 3D (kids’ flicks and sequel city blockbusters) are rarely to my taste. But I remember being annoyed at the effort it took to find a cinema showing a non-3D version of the Tintin movie. (I was even more annoyed about how utterly rubbish that flick was after the first 30 minutes, but that’s a different story.)

If you dreaded roller-coaster rides as a kid and easily suffer from motion-sickness, 3D movies probably won’t be your bag. (If it makes you feel any better, I am physically incapable of doing those 3D ‘eye magic’ pictures. We all have our 3D weaknesses.)

Was It Converted In Post?

3D Cinema: Is It Worth The Extra Money?

Not all 3D movies are actually filmed in 3D. Often, a studio will make the decision to convert a 2D movie during the postproduction process in a bid to boost ticket sales. Upcoming films that fall under this umbrella include Man Of Steel, Thor: The Dark World, Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3.

You can usually tell when a movie was converted from 2D to 3D — the visuals often appear darker and no conscious effort has gone into the framing of shots to maximise the 3D experience. In most instances, the 3D version will be a complete waste of money to the point of being detrimental.

Cinemas usually aren’t upfront about whether a movie was shot in native 3D. Before heading to the cinema, it pays to do a quick online search to find out whether you’ll be getting a ‘real’ 3D movie. The answer will be readily available at most movie enthusiast sites.

Are You Taking Kids?

3D Cinema: Is It Worth The Extra Money?

If you have children, there’s a whole other set of factors you need to take into consideration. If your kids are young or a bit hyperactive, you can probably guarantee that their glasses will be coming off at various points during the movie. It’s just another annoyance/distraction that you’re going to have to police.

Something else to be mindful of: if you’re taking them to something that’s on the PG borderline, such as The Hobbit, the 3D version may lead to additional frights and nightmares.

On the other hand, there are few experiences more rewarding than watching your fascinated child reach out to touch the imagery on screen — as I recently experienced with my three year-old daughter during a 3D screening of Oz: The Great And Powerful. The movie was rubbish mind, but that one moment made it all worthwhile.

Lifehacker’s weekly Streaming column looks at how technology is keeping us entertained.


  • Also, take into account – if you have to wear glasses all the time (e.g. bifocals), you’re going to have to wear glasses over your glasses, otherwise even if you have the 3D glasses on you won’t be able to see anything properly. (IIRC, about 10% of the world’s population does require glasses all the time, so I guess someone had better come up with 3D clip-ons sometime soon.)

    And I don’t get motion sickness, but I do get awful, blinding headaches from fast-paced 3D scenes. I was fine with The Avengers in 3D right up until the Hulk chase – after that I was wishing I’d brought some Nurofen. It completely ruined the experience for me (and I can imagine motion sickness would ruin a 3D movie as well).

    I’m just not really a fan of 3D. It’s a fun novelty, I guess, but you’re not really gaining anything in it. I’ve seen a lot of movies in 2D and then in 3D and the change didn’t add anything except extra dollars on the ticket price.

  • I’m the same as Angus, I get a horrible headache within a couple of minutes when watching 3d movies. I don’t get nauseous however (which is a nice plus). Interestingly i’ve not found this with over forms of 3D – even on TVs.

    I’m also a poor uni student who can’t afford them – $5 is a lot! (well not really but its how much i spend on lunch)

  • I think 3D is at the detriment of good film making. I don’t watch 3D movies for the same above reasons but I can see soo many elements of the 2D version has clearly been shot in a particular manner to take advantage of 3D. Like shooting an arrow towards the crowd. So gimmicky. I’m sure film maker hate it just as much but have to listen to the studios who are funding it.

  • Really Iron Man 3 wasn’t shot in 3D, now I know why the 3D movies look like a 2D even with glasses.

    Avatar is the best one so far for 3D, as it was natively shot in 3D… 🙁

  • Meh, I like 3D.

    Would I see the movie in 3D every chance I can? Yes.

    The 3 I have seen in 3D were amazing (Avatar, The Hobbit and The Avengers) and I am sure that Iron Man, Thor and the rest of the Marvel gang will be just as good. I guess I am just a lucky one who doesn’t get the side affects of 3D motions.

  • I active look for 2d if the option exists, money is not an issue.

    When watching a 3d movie I’ll almost always have to take the glasses off at one point to give my eyes a break, a few minutes of that can take you right out of any moment.

    There’s occasionally some big panoramic shot that looks great in 3d, outside of that when there’s a bunch of people chatting in a room, I really don’t get anything extra out of it.

    Wearing glasses makes my nose feel funny, and sometimes I want to sneeze.

    3D is nice as an occasional novelty, but not one I’d choose more than once every couple of years.

  • 2D for me. I’ve seen a few movies in 3D and wasn’t overly impressed (plus dealing with a headache for the first half hour sucks), and after the first 5mins of seeing the 3D effect, I kinda forget it’s there, so just a waste of money. Yes, I’m weird, I much preferred Avatar in 2D.

  • I avoid the like the plague… Mostly because I can’t see them… Not because my eyes don’t work.. but because the glasses that they give you (espesh the Dolby cinemas) are scratched and you can’t see through them. Much rather the 2D versions of the films.

  • “I was even more annoyed about how utterly rubbish that flick was after the first 30 minutes, but that’s a different story.”

    End of the article for me.

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