33¢ Movies Go 3-D
Celebrate the Century – 1950s
Issue Date: May 26, 1999
City: Springfield, MA
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed, engraved
A variety of fads came and went during the 1950s, including 3-D movies, or “deepies.” With the increasing popularity of television, movie audiences were dwindling. The motion picture industry was groping for a gimmick to renew America’s interest in the theater when the Natural Vision Corporation came up with 3-D.
One type of 3-D movie featured a large, curved screen to produce three-dimensional pictures. Others used the stereoscopic principle, where two overlapping film images were simultaneously projected. Audience members wore special eyeglasses that refocused the view, creating a three-dimensional image.
The first 3-D movie, “Bwana Devil,” premiered on November 26, 1952, in Los Angeles. Film makers doubted that people would go see a movie where they had to wear special glasses. The film disproved that theory, and broke box-office records with a first week gross of $95,000 (which was momentous at that time). Critics agreed that the movie’s story of man-eating lions that harass railroad builders in Africa was less than impressive. But audiences were amazed by the optical illusions of beasts that seemed to leap from the screen.
The 3-D movie fad was a short-lived one, most likely because of the unimaginative plots featured in the films.