JLS 3D: The future of music?

Does the boy band’s concert film, Eyes Wide Open, mark a rising music trend?

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It’s unlikely you were at one of the 182 cinemas showing JLS: Eyes Wide Open on Friday, unless you’re a superfan of the 2008 X Factor runners-up, or a very understanding relative.

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Judging by the Vue cinema in Shepherds Bush, West London, there were only ten JLS fans in the area that evening. Maybe the others decided to go to the following two screening days – added at the last minute, apparently due to phenomenal demand.

The film itself is not bad going. The first of its kind by a British act, it mixes live concert footage, filmed at London’s O2 Arena in January, with behind-the-scenes documentary clips and early videos of the band when they were a different combination of letters, UFO… don’t ask.

Watching it in 3D (and yes, that means wearing the glasses) enables Marvin, Aston, JB and Oritse to be brought to life on screen. They sing, they dance (both pretty well, actually), and with the surround sound and occasional clever camera shots from within the crowd, it has the potential to feel like the real thing.

Except that’s where the flaw lies. Are JLS really so much in demand that hordes of fans who couldn’t make their original 39-date tour during 2010/2011 will now flock to their local cinema to see a slightly less satisfactory version? Or was the original gig so good that concert-goers simply want to relive the magic?

Whatever the reason, once you’re there in the cinema, how exactly should you respond when Marvin shouts, “We love you O2 Arena” and Aston tells you to “Make some noise”? Should you pretend you’re not wearing ridiculous eyewear and have a precariously placed box of popcorn on your lap?

At one point during the screening, a mother encouraged her young son to dance along to Everybody In Love. He did, for a minute or so, although she stayed firmly in her seat along with the rest of us. There were a few whoops from the back row when the band were shown topless in their dressing room, but that’s about it. Maybe people were singing along in other cinemas across the country.

Director of Eyes Wide Open, Andy Morahan, has made some award-winning music videos and commercials in his time, including the 1990s rock classic November Rain for Guns N’ Roses, so he knows how to get music to come alive visually. And JLS are not the first to star in a concert-style film that makes use of 3D technology.

U2’s 2006 Vertigo tour was made into U23D in 2008, becoming the first live action digital 3D film of all time. Produced by an American company, it made over $23 million worldwide and built on the success of their 1988 rockumentary Rattle and Hum. Even at that point, U2 were already one of the most successful rock bands of all time. They’d released The Joshua Tree the year before, whereas the bright-eyed JLS are only two albums in.

JLS are, however, only following in the recent footsteps of their US teen counterparts. Justin Beiber’s 3D concert movie Never Say Never was released this year, grossing nearly $30 million in its first weekend. Miley Cyrus’s Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert made just a fraction more in 2008 when it became the highest grossing concert film of all time. The Jonas Brothers also had a stab at it in 2009 with the Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, released the same year as Michael Jackson’s (non 3D) This Is It, which came out after the star’s death.

With a Glee 3D concert film reportedly set for release in August, and Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite, filmed on her Les Folies Tour, premiering on Sky3D later this month, perhaps 3D reshowings of concerts are the future of music.

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If you’d rather see the real thing, however, you could just buy a ticket for JLS’s 10-date nationwide tour, which is coincidentally also happening this month.