The jostling between studios for screens, especially 3D and digital projection screens, leads to a lot of weird demands from studios towards theaters. In the old days, in order to get a hot movie from a studio, theaters had to agree to show their less-desired films for a set amount of time; that practice was eventually deemed out of bounds by courts, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a bevy of ways that studios can put pressure on theaters to display their films in the manner that they desire. Usually those come in the form of minimum runtime contracts, where a film must be guaranteed to play on nicer screens for a set amount of time, or else your theater won't get it at all. That's the case for Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, apparently: Deadline is saying that Paramount is insisting that theaters project the film for a full four weeks in a digital theater, should one be available, which might make things a bit dicier for Cars 2, Captain America, and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part II to find nice screens to show on, especially in smaller theaters.
Paramount's also said that theaters have to show the film in 3D during the early screenings next Tuesday, or it won't be able to participate in those screenings, which might negatively impact Cars 2 a bit.
That kind of gamesmanship is not uncommon, especially when you're talking about what should wind up being the biggest film of the year; I always find the competing demands of studios to be a fairly fascinating, if un-talked-about aspect of the movie business, especially given that many theaters only have so many screens capable of showing 3D films. But Paramount and Michael Bay aren't stopping there; Bay has also taken note of the disappointing 3D grosses of films like Kung Fu Panda 2 and Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, took the unusual step of asking theater chains to brighten up their projections of his film, which will make the projector bulbs burn out faster, but will also hopefully counteract the much-derided dimness of the 3D experience. Whether or not he succeeds in those demands will be known next Tuesday, I suppose.
Bay's well-known for being demanding and headstrong, but if he can actually convince theater owners that the long-term survival of 3D, and those three or five dollar surcharges on the tickets, are worth going through an extra bulb every few months, then he'll probably be doing all of us a favor. Outside of bad 3D conversions, the dimness of 3D films feels like it's the most prominent complaint that people have about the technology, so a brighter image for a film that every American is legally required to see next week might be just what the doctor ordered to get people excited about the technology again, or at least not as antagonistic to it.
Are you planning on checking out Dark Of The Moon next Tuesday? I've already got my IMAX 3D tickets, and I'm planning on picking up a couple of earplugs and some Aleve beforehand if it's the kind of experience I expect it to be.