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Summer movies to be seen through new (3-D) lenses

Barbie and Ken in "Toy Story 3" (AP: Photo)

Movie studios are seeing the summer season through new lenses, but they may not be seeing eye to eye with choosiest of audiences — New Yorkers.

Hollywood is trotting out 3-D for at least seven summer blockbusters, hoping to cash in on the wild success of “Avatar.” Just don’t count on New Yorkers to pay $20 a pop for mere flash, experts said.

“You’re looking at a much more sophisticated movie-going audience,” said Phil Contrino, editor of boxoffice.com. “If you just throw something up there, they’re going to call you out on it.”

The last-minute conversion of movies from 2-D to 3-D — just for profit’s sake — is one gimmick that won’t play in Gotham, experts said.

“Studios may kill the goose that lays the golden eggs through their rush to convert already-in-production films to 3-D via a post-production process,” said Vic Holtreman, editor in chief of Screen Rant. He was referencing “Clash of the Titans,” which some audiences reportedly walked out of.

“Avatar,” however, was planned from its inception as a 3-D feature. The technology gave moviegoers the sensation of blue-skinned Na’vi natives swooping down on them in flight.

New York’s many auditorium-style cinemas only serve to enhance such an experience, Contrino said.

Expectations are high for “Shrek Forever After” and “Toy Story 3,” but 3-D may not be enough to prop up others releases such as “Step Up 3D.”

There are about 4,100 movie screens with 3-D capabilities in the U.S., with the number on the rise, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners. Though an exact estimate for New York wasn’t available Thursday, AMC Theatres said 33 of its 129 city screens are 3-D or 3-D IMAX.

“This is not the red and blue glasses of the ’50s. It’s not gimmicky,” said AMC spokesman Justin Scott, who said all his company’s theaters will be digital within three years. “This is conceptual.”

But the phenomenon won’t threaten New York’s storied art houses, including the Angelika Film Center, anytime soon.

“Those going to see movies there aren’t looking for the same experience that people going to 3-D blockbuster are,” said Brooklyn filmmaker David Heiman, 24.

The city’s “skeptical” audiences will always prefer strong storylines over special effects, Heiman said, especially since ticket prices have leapt 25 percent since March.

Catching a non-3-D movie now costs you about $13 in Manhattan.

“I don’t think they should hold us hostage by jacking up the price,” said Saundra Robinson, 62, of Manhattan.

Taneish Hamilton contributed to this story.

emily.ngo@am-ny.com

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Movie mavens split on 3-D

Thumbs down:
“3-D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension. Hollywood’s current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal.”
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times movie critic
The 3-D trend is a way “to make you pay more money for a ticket.”
-- Francis Ford Coppola, director of “The Godfather,” “Apocalypse Now”

Thumbs up:
“Where they had a choice, the audience … saw 3-D as the premium viewing experience."
-- James Cameron, director of “Titanic,” “Avatar”
“It’s a great thing when you use it as a technical tool and not as a wonder weapon.”
-- Tim Burton, director of “Beetlejuice,” “Alice in Wonderland”

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