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The history of 3D movies is as old as the origin of the movies itself. With each technological breakthrough, 3D movies have risen and fallen in popularity. There have been periods of high popularity for 3D films interspersed with periods of obscurity. 

The Early Days

Early movie pioneers experimented with technology for 3D filmmaking but could not come with a technique to produce such movies with quality aesthetics in a way that they’re commercially viable. At the beginning of the 20th century, English inventor William Friese-Greene and American photographer Frederic E. dabbled with 3D technology.

During the Great Depression, however, work in 3D technology went into a lull.

The 1950s

The first 3D color movie was released in 1952 and was called Bwana Devil. The movie leveraged the Natural Vision technique pioneered by Milton Gunzberg. After the release of this film, 50 such films were released all within a 2-year period. The notable ones included Andre De Toth’s House of Wax and Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Mudrer.

The Re-emergence

Just a single notable 3D film released in the early 60s was Mask, which premiered in 1961. Arch Oboler came up with Space-Vision 3D – a single print 3D film projection solution.

The 1970s saw the introduction of Stereovision 3D. It involved separate images placed side by side on the same reel rather than placed over and under. The Stewardesses were produced using this technology and emerged as the most profitable 3D film of all time.

Mainstream acceptance

In the mid-80s, IMAX came up with a precise mathematical approach to projections, thereby transforming the 3D technology landscape.  The 3D movie Transitions premiered at the Expo’86 in Canada. It was the first-ever 3D movie to make use of polarized glasses rather than the anaglyph ones.

Releases in 2009, James Cameron’s Avatar transformed the 3D landscape significantly and was the first movie to gross over 2 billion dollars. Today, nearly every major blockbuster is released in 3D. Nowadays, we even have 3D televisions competing with 3D big-screen releases.