3D movies have gone from a staple of 1950s drive-in movies to the definitive cutting edge technology for cinema in the 21st century. From animated films to summer blockbusters, 3D technology is becoming prized for its ability to create an illusion of depth that lends an element of realism to the action on screen.
The earliest tests of 3D technology occurred in 1915 and the first known movie to be filmed in 3D was “The Power of Love,” a silent film released in 1922. It used dual-strip projection and was viewed using red and green anaglyph glasses. 3D technology did not see widespread usage until the so-called 3D Golden Era that lasted from 1952 to 1955. Starting with the release of “Bwana Devil” in 1952, a host of 3D films were released to the public.
3D films produced in the 1950s typically used dual strip projection and Polaroid filters to reduce glare. They also featured a number of technological advances. “Bwana Devil” featured the first 3D film use of stereophonic color. The 1953 version of “House of Wax” became the first 3D film to use stereophonic sound. It was a box office success and helped pave the way for other notable 3D movies from “It Came From Outer Space” to “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” to be released into theaters.
“The Creature of the Black Lagoon” was shot in Florida and began the association of Miami film studios with 3D cinema. That association has continued into the 21st century with the work of Soho Studios, a leader in TV and film production in Miami.
3D returned to the big screen for a second craze from 1981 to 1983. Popular move franchises like “Friday the 13th,” “Jaws” and “The Amityville Horror” all released installments using 3-D effects. 3D productions died down again after the box office failure of “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone” in 1983.
IMAX theaters played a role in the rebirth of modern 3D. The theaters offered huge screens with a larger field of vision that made 3D effects higher quality and reduced eye fatigue for viewers. James Cameron pioneered the use of HD video cameras in his Reality Camera System to achieve a cleaner and more realistic 3D effect on screen. Cameron pioneered its use in “Ghosts of the Abyss” in 2003 and made 3D profitable again with the release of “Avatar” in 2009. It became the highest grossing movie of all time.