Classic 3-D at Film Forum August 13 – 26

Upon observing certain aspects of the world around him, my father used to say, “The more things change the more they remain the same.” Nothing could be more apropos to Dad’s favored expression than the film industry’s current trend of releasing 3-D movies.

Hollywood’s first Golden Age of 3-D films lasted briefly, from 1953-1954, and came about as a response to the competition, television. “I’m amazed that, almost 60 years after the first 3-D heyday, which lasted two years, Hollywood once again sees 3-D as the future and savior of the industry,” explained Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum’s Director of Repertory Programming.

Goldstein actually had 3-D equipment (including the proverbial, but real, silver screen) installed when Film Forum moved to its current Houston Street Iocation in 1990. “At the time, I looked to 3-D the way Hollywood did in the early 50s: as a way to get people away from their TVs and back into theatres, though in the early 90s, the big competition was home video,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein took me on a behind the scenes tour of the Film Forum’s projection room (the cleanest I have ever seen) to reveal what goes into showing vintage 3-D. While today’s “multiplex” 3-D is digital, using one projector, the 3-D of the 50s consists of two film reels, one for the right eye, one for the left, that have to be projected simultaneously. The process requires two projectors that have to run in precise synchronization, not an easy thing to do and possibly one reason, Goldstein pointed out, why the 3-D of the 50s had such a short life. Today Film Forum melds the two projector technology of the 1950s with modern computer technology to accomplish this feat of synchronization. The older, two projector system, permits twice as much light to reach the screen, giving an image brightness that is superior to today’s “multiplex” one projector system. The added brightness is important for 3-D since the dark Polaroid glasses required to see 3-D cuts some of the light. The silver screen also helps because it reflects more light than a regular screen. Most of the 15 prints in the series are all new prints made by the studios for their archives.

Goldstein added, “The Hollywood 3-D movies of the early 50s were of a very high quality technically. They were not made in the inferior anaglyphic process, a single-system 3-D process viewed through cardboard red/green glasses and used mainly for cheap exploitation pictures. That’s a myth that’s been perpetuated in story after story about the current 3-D boom. I hope this series will help put an end to that misconception.”

Film Forum, unlike the multiplexes, does not charge extra for 3-D, but they do want the glasses returned after the shows. Classic 3-D runs at Film forum from August 13 – 26.

For schedule information visit


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on August 4, 2010, in Classics, Feature Articles, Film Forum, New. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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