Will 3D change the cinema experience?

3D will change the cinema experience forever.

There was a time when cinema was exciting, when going to the movie theatre was an event, as big as the real theatre even. We were dazzled, we were in awe, we were amazed.

Why shouldn't we have been? That big screen and booming sound system was like nothing we had ever experienced. It was an event.

Then TV and projector manufacturers started catching up. We all got big flat screen TVs or projectors, kick-arse sound systems with more speakers than we could count when drunk, and microwaves with dedicated buttons to make Popcorn quickly at home. We could even pause the experience to go to the loo. Why would you pay £20 for a ticket and some popcorn sitting in a cinema that was cold, when your warm comfy sofa would be at least twice as nice.

If cinema wasn't panicking by then, then came the Internet and the ability to download the latest pirated movies. The death knell of the cinema was sounded.

But then a shimmer of hope. Finally it seems cinema has something to look forward to.

No one can question that the buzz around 3D cinema is immense, heck we've dedicated a whole week to the subject. Come December, James Cameron's Avatar will either be its crowning glory or the proof for naysayers that it's just a flash in the pan.

After all 3D cinema has been pushing itself into the spotlight over and over again for decades. Anyone remember Jaws IV in 3D or Nightmare on Elm Street 6: Freddy's dead?

But now, "The Times They Are a-Changin' " as Dylan would say, with a barrage of 3D films heading our way. Dreamworks, Disney, and other studios have all got behind the experience. Why? Because that's exactly what it is. An experience. Whether you're sat in an IMAX watching some fish or experiencing monsters battling against the forces of evil, you are talking about the experience as well as how decent the film is.

Aside from film geeks, that hasn't happened in a long time in the cinema. You never come away saying "Wow I really like the way they shot that pivotal scene at the end - the lighting was so avant-garde?", but go and see a 3D movie and chances are you'll be talking about the axe whizzing towards you at high speed, or the way the characters had so much depth and realism to them.

Why? Because as I've said, 3D makes the cinema an experience rather than just a medium on which to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

How long has cinema got before TV makers catch up? Well probably some time. Manufacturers have really only just announced in earnest their plans for creating televisions.

The German trade show IFA saw Sony, Panasonic and Philips lay their cards out on the table, with the Blu-ray Disc Association stating they were working on a standardised format for the delivery of 3D content in HD.

Manufacturers will, it's planned, deliver the first sets in 2010, announced at CES in January, where a stronger push is expected for 2012 in time for the Olympics.

Sky in the UK says it will go 3D next year as well, probably in time for the World Cup, with limited content and audiences based on the fact you'll need a new TV to experience it.

All these factors mean that I believe cinema has a good 5 years of us enjoying "the 3D experience" on the big screen, rather than the small screen when 3D movies start coming to the living room. As for the PC in the back room it's more like 2 years based on what experts believe. By the time TV makers do catch up, you can expect cinema to create an entirely new reason for us to keep buying our tickets and popcorn - smell-o-vision anyone?

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