For the weekend The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey took in a good haul of $84.6 million and broke the previous December opening weekend record held by I Am Legend at $77.2 million. Though even with the new record it wasn’t as great as some were expecting, and Box Office Mojo is reporting while The Hobbit earned more than both The Two Towers and Return of the King it sold less tickets. Chalk that up to the higher prices of 3D, HFR 3D, IMAX 3D, and ticket price inflation overall. Was it a failure? Hell no. Was it a box office smash? Eh, not quite. But it’s likely word of mouth, which has been more positive than most critic’s reviews, will help The Hobbit continue to perform well throughout the holiday season.
Some are blaming the mixed response to The Hobbit‘s release in the higher frame rate of 48 fps for its slight under performance. Personally, I think that’s pretty dumb considering the movie was still available in the usual 24 fps, in both 3D and 2D, but whatever. The 48 fps has caused a rift among moviegoers and cinephiles and now science is here to explain why.
Turns out, we humans don’t want to accept a movie as fantasy when it all looks too real. The higher frame rate of The Hobbit more closely mimics how our eyes perceive reality, which is something close to 66 fps – if reality was frames of film that is – and can be bothersome because now the movie no longer looks like a movie. I know, it’s all a little confusing, here’s filmmaker James Kerwin, a lecturer on the science of film perception and consciousness at the University of Arizona’s Center for Consciousness Studies, to explain it better,
Most researchers agree we perceive 40 conscious moments per second. In other words: our eyes see more than that but we’re only aware of 40. So if a frame rate hits or exceeds 40 fps, it looks to us like reality. Whereas if it’s significantly below that, like 24 fps or even 30 fps, there’s a separation, there’s a difference — and we know immediately that what we’re watching is not real.
It’s psychological: we need suspension of disbelief, and suspension of disbelief comes from the lower frame rate. The lower frame rate allows our brains to say, ‘Okay — I’m not perceiving 40 conscious moments per second anymore; I’m only perceiving 24, or 30, and therefore this is not real and I can accept the artificial conventions of the acting and the lighting and the props.’ It’s an inherent part of the way our brain perceives things. Twenty-four or 30 frames per second is an inherent part of the cinematic experience. It’s the way we accept cinema. It’s the way we suspend our disbelief.
So there’s the science behind why some of you loved The Hobbit‘s crystal clear picture and others thought everything looked too soap opera-y. Do you agree? Kerwin also believes audiences will adjust to 48 fps over time, do you think it’s only a matter of time before 48 fps becomes the norm?
Finally, there’s been two behind-the-scenes featurettes released since The Hobbit came out about the film’s visual and audio effects. Whatever your final opinion on The Hobbit, you have to admit it features some stunning moments of CGI wizardry as well as sound design. Check ‘em out below the cut!