While the inflated cost of admission into 3D theaters has proven to affect the overall financial success of 3D movies, box office returns last month have analysts a little worried about the possible collapse of 3D. Have audiences finally tired of the 3D fad, or is the whole issue overblown?
This summer’s large slate of 3D movies may wind up signaling whether the costly medium sticks around or not. No summer has ever held as many 3D titles as that of 2011. In the first month of summer blockbusters, we’ve seen four 3D titles open: ‘Thor’, ‘Priest’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’. With eleven more set to open throughout June, July and August, this summer will let the studios know how audiences judge 3D – a worthy moviegoing enhancement or just another gimmick to raise ticket prices.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, whenever a film opens in both 3D and 2D formats, typically 55% to 65% of its domestic opening comes from the 3D showings. For the opening of ‘On Stranger Tides’, Disney reported that only 47% of its weekend gross came from 3D screens.
Those who want to see the demise of 3D are jumping to the conclusion that general audiences prefer standard 2D to the expensive ticket costs and the less-than-perfect 3D gimmick. They believe that the numbers will only continue to drop, signaling the death of 3D. Disney itself is attributing the low 3D gross to a marketing campaign that didn’t constantly boast the 3D aspect.
While I tend to agree with the earlier theory, both seem to be negating the facts. It’s true that, with our economy in the pot and pocket books tighter than ever, viewers may find it easier to justify seeing a movie in 2D over 3D. But is it really plausible that 3D will die off completely? If anything, Hollywood will continue do what it’s doing now: give viewers the option. Nobody is forcing anyone to see movies in 3D. You have a choice (for now). I don’t see it dying off because there are people on both sides of the 3D argument. Some love it while others hate it.
It’s true that Disney did not promote the 3D of ‘Pirates’ as much as other films have, but you cannot buy a movie ticket online without noticing the 3D option, and you cannot purchase tickets from a theater without seeing the marquee list the 3D show times. Nobody goes to a 2D showing without knowing that the movie could have been watched in 3D as well.
Not only is this summer supposed to determine how general audiences will judge 3D, it’s also supposed to show the different effects that movies shot in 3D have on the box office, as opposed to those converted to 3D in post-production.
Of the eleven 3D summer movies yet to open, five were not shot in 3D, five were, and one is an animated feature. ‘Green Lantern’, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’, ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’, ‘The Smurfs’ and ‘Conan the Barbarian’ were not shot with 3D cameras. ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’, ‘Final Destination 5’, ‘Glee Live!’, ‘Fright Night’ and ‘Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World’ were shot in 3D. Being an animated Pixar title, ‘Cars 2’ is sure to be the best-looking 3D feature of the summer.
We talk about these numbers and theories as if they’re controlled by nature, but the real way to determine what average American moviegoers want is to ask them. Personally, I’d be okay if 3D never reared its ugly head in theaters again. What do you want to see happen to 3D?