Movies are currently shown at 24 frames-per-second (fps), so the news that selected showings of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" has "brightened" the view of some Tolkien fans, while at the same time making them reach for their wallets.
Fear not, moviegoers: while the final decision on ticket pricing is in the hands of both Warner Bros. (the distributor) and theater owners, on Wednesday, a source close to the situation said that the studio has received assurances from exhibitors that they will not raise ticket prices for the higher frame rate showings.
That's despite the fact that 3D showings, as well as IMAX showings, typically command much higher ticket prices. One might expect that a 3D + 48 fps showing would be priced higher than a standard 3D version. However, director Peter Jackson himself said that he didn't expect to see higher prices, saying when he previewed 48 fps clips of "The Hobbit" at CinemaCon that, “There is no intention that I have heard to charge more.”
Jackson added, “As an industry there is a certain amount of trouble that we are in; kids seem to think watching a movie on an iPad is an okay thing to do. Advocating that we have to stick with what we know [24 fps], I think, is a slightly narrow-minded way of looking at things when as an industry we are facing declining audiences. We have to find ways to make it more vibrant, more immersive - something that will encourage people to come back to the theaters for that experience.”
What Jackson fails to note is that some of the reason that people don't go to theaters includes big-screen HDTVs at home, as well as poor viewing experiences in theaters, including disruptions for cell phones and smartphones, and patrons who for some reason haven't learned that talking is a bad idea during a movie.
To be clear, only the 3D version will be shown at 48 fps, once again at select theaters.
One would expect that advertising that your theater is showing a 48 fps version, while the one across town the is not, might be quite a draw. Still, though, theater owners will have to invest in new technology in order to show that version.
Arguments over whether or not 48 fps 3D is "better" continue. After the aforementioned CinemaCon preview of about ten minutes of unfinished footage from "The Hobbit," critics of the format argued that it looked like “video.” Meanwhile, backers of the new format say that it makes 3D more comfortable to watch, as well as making imagery (even) more lifelike.
You may have to look hard to find a 48 fps version of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." Warner Bros.' president of domestic distribution, Dan Fellman, earlier told The Hollywood Reporter that a 3D 48 fps version of the movie will be made available in “all major markets in North America,” but that it will play only in select theaters. “In terms of going into thousands of theaters, we will not,” he added.