BURBANK – One horror seems to follow another this weekend, with seven reported deaths across America and two in Australia during or immediately following screenings of the first film installment of Peter Jackson’s new “The Hobbit” franchise.
On Friday night, five incidents were reported in Michigan, California, New Mexico, Delaware, and Queensland, Australia. The following day, four more deaths were reported in Western Australia, Illinois, Georgia, and again in Michigan.
Post-mortem analyses for all nine cases have so far linked the deaths to brain aneurysms and subsequent hemorrhaging, caused by severe mental stress.
Though as yet unproven, currently suspicion lies with the film’s increased frame rate, which many film-goers have been complaining causes headaches, dizziness, and nausea. 3D versions of the film have a 48 frame-per-second (fps) rate, doubling the standard 24fps normally used in cinema. While the technique reduces blurring and strobing effects, studies show the human eye to be generally unable to process more than 10 or 12 images in a second.
The current theory is that the increased frame rate can produce undue strain on the faculties of certain individuals, particularly those susceptible to seizuring. An overload of motion and color produces an overload of neuronal activity in the brain, which in turn can in extreme cases trigger an aneurysm.
Following news of the deaths, copies of the faster-rate version of the film have been withdrawn pending closer examination. Warner Bros., the company responsible for the film’s production and release, has not commented on the deaths or decision to withdraw the suspected copies.