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Is the 3-D experience worth the cost?
3D
The study indicated moviegoers might not be missing out by ditching those 3-D glasses. - photo by istockphoto.com

One doesn’t have to wear 3-D glasses to see how big 3-D has gotten.

Hollywood churns out 3-D films to the tune of billions of dollars every year, according to IHS Screen Digest. It said in 2006, there were only 258 3-D cinema screens in the world. Now, there are more than 53,000.

Moviegoers are promised a more thrilling and intense experience by paying an extra $2, $3 or even $5 a ticket for 3-D. But are they really getting it?

University of Utah researcher Sheila Crowell wanted to find out whether moviegoers get any more meaningful impact by watching a film in 3-D. So Crowell and her colleagues asked 400 students to watch 2-D and 3-D clips from four films: “My Bloody Valentine,” “Despicable Me,” “Tangled” and “The Polar Express.”

“We chose films we felt could get just one discreet emotion, but would be long enough for us to look at multiple psychological responses,” she explained.

The students were connected to a physiological response data box.

“They got hooked up to all sorts of wires, sensors that would measure things like their heart rate, sweat on the palm of their hands, and this is a way for us (to look at) emotions objectively,” Crowell said.

So, after measuring the heart rates, breathing and palm sweatiness of 400 students, what did Crowell and her team find?

“Both of them worked. They were great for eliciting emotions, but 3-D didn’t add any incremental benefit over and above 2-D,” Cromwell said.

The study indicated moviegoers might not be missing out by ditching those 3-D glasses.

“I felt like this is freedom to not have to pay the extra $3, $4, or $5 for the 3-D ticket,” one moviegoer said. Others just like to watch movies in 3-D.

There is one caveat to the study. Crowell said a particularly thrilling scene from “The Polar Express” induced a few more “sweaty palms” than the other 3-D clips.

Here’s her theory on that: Films made specifically for 3-D as opposed to 2-D films later converted to 3-D, have higher-quality 3-D content, making them a little more effective in eliciting emotions.