3D has been with us almost as long as photography and much longer than moving pictures. There was a mid-Victorian vogue for stereoscopy. It faded. I don't know why. Maybe because the equipment was too bulky. My wealthy cousins owned a Victorian stereoscope- a large wooden box with viewing ports- I loved it- but it wasn't something you could easily carry from room to room.
It's the same with the movies. Stereoscopy has always been the next big thing- and has always turned out to be nothing more than a novelty. Again that's a lot to do with how fiddly it is, the special (silly) glasses and all. Other innovations have caught on and stayed in place- the talkies, colour, widescreen- but not 3D.
And here's an odd thing. 3D has never engaged the interest of artists. None of the great Victorian photographers worked with it. And none of the great film directors either- with the exception of Hitchcock- who made Dial M For Murder to fulfill a contractual obligation. Stereoscopy has been with us for over 150 years- and in all that time there's never been a great photograph or a great movie that threatened to put your eyes out.
Why? I think it's because stereoscopy is just a trick- a trick that soon becomes stale. The promise is that it'll put you there- inside the action- only it doesn't- it's a cheat. Your position is fixed- and controlled by someone else. You can't roam freely through those ever so life-like spaces. If the ultimate goal is the totally immersive experience- with the viewer becoming a player- as on the StarTrek holodeck- then video games are already miles ahead- and there's no way conventional cinema can catch up. All it can offer is the same old passive viewing experience with illusory knobs on.
Perhaps Avatar is going to turn things round, but if I were a Hollywood studio chief I'd be nervous of throwing too much money at this particular latest thing.