While fans have known for months now that The Hobbit trilogy was being filmed at 48 frames per second (fps), as opposed to the standard 24fps, it was only just announced last week that movie theaters would not be charging additional fees for 48fps screenings of the first film.
This seems like an odd move considering Hollywood’s past (3D anyone?), but it is more likely a calculated move to gauge the response for the next two installments. Test screenings of 48fps footage at CinemaCon were met with a generally negative response, and some hope that the new format will end with The Hobbit.
The real question though is why is film is at 48fps in the first place? It seems like an odd thing to change. For one, it means using twice as much film stock, and for an epic series like The Hobbit, that’s going to cost a lot.
Supporters of higher frame rates like James Cameron claim that it is smoother and that it improves the quality of 3D, but many critics claim that it is too smooth and that there is a reason why 24fps has been the industry standard for over 80 years. In his review of the footage on /Film, Peter Sciretta said, “It looked uncompromisingly real — so much so that it looked fake.”
Personally, I think the whole 48fps business is just a way to bring more attention to the film. Seems a bit like overkill, considering Lord of The Rings was the most successful trilogy of the last decade and is only the second trilogy (after The Godfather) to have all three films nominated for Best Picture. That’s not to mention all the fans of the book. Is there really any concern about people not seeing the film?
And yet, that might be exactly why Peter Jackson filmed in 48fps in the first place. The Lord of the Rings casts a longer shadow than Sauron, and Jackson is clearly working hard to set The Hobbit apart. Using the higher frame rate will ensure that The Hobbit goes down in history, whether it’s a success or not.
What that says about the quality of the movie as a whole remains to be seen, but it is clear that Peter Jackson wants The Hobbit to have as big of an impact on the future of cinema as Lord of the Rings did.
I know that I’m more likely to see it at 48fps just to see what the fuss is about. I just hope I don’t end up regretting it.
What about you? Will you be seeing the film at 48fps? Let us know in the comments below.