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Televisory: San Marcos H-E-Bs ran out of 3-D glasses

Scene Editor

The 3-D glasses needed for the full impact of Sunday’s Super Bowl telecast on NBC apparently was all the rage in San Marcos.

On a uniquely crowded day at the big H-E-B on East Hopkins Street Sunday, the store ran out of the 3-D glasses manufactured by American Paper Optics and distributed free through PepsiCo’s Sobe Lifewater displays at 25,000 retailers nationally.

The small H-E-B on West Hopkins Street ran out of the glasses last Thursday.

“The promotion went over very well,” said Blair Hartley, a sales associate at the small H-E-B.

The SoBe commercials, some NBC ads and the promos for the movie, Monsters Vs. Aliens, all were all shown in 3-D. For those who missed the experience, NBC’s Chuck, airing at 8 p.m. tonight, will also be broadcast in 3-D.

If you don’t have the glasses, NBC says, don’t worry. You can still watch “Chuck,” thanks to the “moving cameras” that make 3-D without glasses easier on the eye.

3-D generally has had the reputation of being a cheesy gambit. Memories of older 3-D flicks make one shudder at the idea of wearing those flimsy cardboard glasses in order to see a variety of silly things hurled at you from the screen. When Hollywood made a 3-D movie, it was either a bust and quickly converted to 2D (the 1955 musical, Kiss Me Kate, was originally in 3-D), or the film only appealed to 14-year old boys who had a blood lust for monster zombie pics.

Most notable for ridiculous set-ups and tricks, 3-D was justifiably parodied by Second City’s Monster Chiller Horror Theater with “Doctor Tongue’s 3-D House of Stewardesses” or “Doctor Tongue’s 3-D House of Pancakes” where Dr, Tongue (John Candy) would shove a bottle towards the camera and ask menacingly, “Would you like some syrup with those?”

The new ColorCode 3-D glasses and RealD processes are reputed to have richer color and better depth than any previous 3-D attempts, and this comeback is under the impetus of some pretty big Hollywood guns. DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffery Katzenberg was the driving force behind this year’s Super Bowl 3-D ads and has committed his studios to putting out three or four 3-D movies per year. Katzenberg has said the new 3-D technology is going to change the face of movies and television. He has estimates that by year’s end in 2010, various studios will combine to produce a dozen or more 3-D films each year.

James Cameron’s “Avatar” in 3-D is due out this summer. Other projects in the works include Disney’s remake of the cult classic, Tron, in 3-D.  Fox Entertainment’s, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3-D, and a 3-D re-make of 1979’s Piranha, are due out this summer. Pixar has announced that all of its coming films will be now made in full Disney 3-D.

Then there is 3-D conversion. George Lucas has promised to 3-Dimensionalize the first Star Wars trilogy and Tim Burton  converted “Nightmare Before Christmas” to 3-D, thanks to the technology of RealD ,which installs an electronic projector and has created a process enabling any 2D film to be converted to 3-D for a price-tag of around 5-8 million dollars. Disney is planning to convert Toy Story 1 and 2 with this technology. One suspects that the conversion of films like My Dinner With Andre will be slow to never, but there may be the horror of a 3-D Casablanca.

Returns have been slow in the 3-D market with last year’s Journey To The Center of the Earth and 2007’s Beowulf both retooling their films for theaters that were not equipped for 3-D.

However, Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds, a 74 minute concert flick, earned $65 million last year. Fly Me To The Moon, the first animated 3-D film had a $34 million return. While these figures seem pretty modest for movies, remember that only 824 theaters were equipped with the technology to show them. There are more than 37,000 movie screens in America and only around 1,000 of them are 3-D ready as of now.

Many theaters showing the current film, My Bloody Valentine, have opted for the 2-D rather than the 3-D version. Be forewarned on this and call ahead to the theater if you want the 3-D horror experience.

Recently, Digital Cinema Implementation Partners engineered a $1 billion dollar deal with five studios to convert as many as 14 thousand theaters to digital 3-D. This means it is a phenomenon destined for a good run, if not to stay. And it’s not just movie theaters. 3-D technology is coming on strong for television with Samsung and Mitsubishi now offering 3-D-ready TV sets that are available at some Best Buy stores. The electronics retail industry estimates that by the end of 2009 there will be some 2 million 3-D-ready TV sets in American homes.

So those Super Bowl ads were Katzenberg’s opening volley in his battle plan to permanently change the face of entertainment. Tonight’s episode of “Chuck” will be a good barometer of how effective this new technology really is, and how willingly the public accepts it.

In other words, you are witnessing a whole new era in television and movie history, a revolution of the art. Maybe. Or you could be feeling a lot like Roger Ebert who mused on his blog, “Ask yourself this question: Have you ever watched a 2-D movie and wished it were in 3-D?” Ebert says no. What do you think?