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'Lion King' success: Should Hollywood fall back in love with 3D?

Two big weekends for 'The Lion King 3D' and suddenly Hollywood is abuzz with talk of 3D conversions. But is the format the reason for the success of the returning modern classic?

By Staff writer / September 26, 2011

Guests gather outside before a Time Warner Cable and Disney screening of "The Lion King" 3D at The El Capitan Theatre, in Los Angeles Sept. 17. Walt Disney's "The Lion King" reissue was No. 1 for the second-straight weekend with $22.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Casey Rodgers/Time Warner Cable/AP

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Los Angeles

Now that “The Lion King 3D” has ruled the box office two weekends in a row – topping Brad Pitt in “Moneyball” – Hollywood studios are bullish on the format once more.

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Once-tentative plans are being firmed up to convert everything from the six “Star War” films to “Titanic,” “Lord of the Rings,” and “Top Gun.”

One of the biggest advocates of 3D filmmaking, “Avatar” director James Cameron, was quoted as saying at a recent conference that within five years, every film would be in 3D.

Not so fast, say a range of analysts, moviegoers and academics. While 3D may have helped propel the film’s winning streak, it is not a silver bullet.

“After ‘Avatar’ did so well, everyone thought that 3D was where filmmaking was going,” says Paul Degarabedian, box office analyst for Hollywood.com. But then, 3D took a beating at the box office after a number of films such as “Clash of the Titans,” did poorly and were critically drubbed for a poor 3D conversion.

Other observers say Hollywood should be careful not to take the wrong lesson from the triumph of a returning modern classic to the big screen.

“As a parent, I can tell you why ‘The Lion King’ beat ‘Moneyball’ at the box office,” says public relations expert Sandi Straetker via email.

“EVERYONE can enjoy ‘The Lion King,’ ” she says. “I can go with my kids and their grandparents and enjoy a wonderful, universally appealing story, beautifully told on the big screen.” She says she owns the DVD, which her two children, ages 10 and 12, have seen many times. The family has also seen the staged version of the musical.

Many who have continued to view 3D as a passing gimmick – yet again – suggest that Hollywood should stop looking for a cure-all.

The 3D format has been around for a long time, points out “New New Media” author Paul Levinson, a professor at Fordham University in New York. It was a big trend in the 1950s, he says, but it died out because it is “basically a gimmick, not essential to the storytelling of filmmaking.” Each time 3D makes a splash, “everyone thinks it’s the savior of the film industry.”

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