Peter Jackson and Warner Brothers took test footage of The Hobbit to CinemaCon this year, showing off the 48fps clip to attendees in the hope that they would be bowled over by the higher frame rate. The footage was instead met with mixed reactions, with viewers believing the higher frame rate only served to make things look cheap as well as shining a light on production quality issues. According to a source at Warner speaking to Variety, the studio is planning a very limited rollout of the 48fps version of the Hobbit, so much so that it might not even hit all the major cities in the United States.
According to the source, the final version of the film looks “vastly better” than what was shown off at CinemaCon, which apparently hadn’t yet undergone post-production tweaks. Warner and Jackson may be enthusiastic about the format, but the studio is reportedly limiting the rollout of the 48fps to gauge audience reaction.
The bigger issue is that theaters aren’t quite ready for 48fps movies just yet, although a software upgrade is reportedly due to be applied in September that will enable most theaters to project the higher frame rate version of the movie. Other equipment found in cinemas, however, may need replacing entirely. Digital cinema projectors and servers are categorized into two sections: Series 1 and Series 2. Series 2 equipment will be able to apply a simple software update, while Series 1 can’t display 48fps 3D at all.
Ultimately the audience will be the deciding factor in the rollout of the 48fps version for the second and third installments of The Hobbit, but it’s still curious that Warner would limit higher frame rate showings of the first movie. Still, official details haven’t been released yet, and we’re a long way off from the film’s December 14th release date.