3-D Movies a Victim of Their Own Success?

Whether you like them or not, 3-D movies are here to stay. The next big thing in Hollywood is proving to be just that with audience and is crediting for helping Hollywood achieve a record breaking summer, according to Variety.

But now some within the Hollywood community are beginning to criticize the new format, saying that the limited number of digital 3-D ready theaters in limiting the exposure for their work and creating shorter windows for 3-D movies to make money. Translation: a glut of 3-D releases is leaving money on the table at the box-office.

At this week’s 3D Entertainment Summit at the Universal Hilton, distributors expressed concerns that the growing slate of 3-D offerings is not allowing films to stay in theaters long enough and earn their full revenue potential.

During “The Business Case for 3D” panel, Screen Digest senior analyst Charlotte Jones said 3D remains a strong revenue driver for features, especially for this summer’s pics. “Without 3D premium pricing, the summer would not have registered as positive,” she said.

Moreover, she said, “Where 3D has permeated a genre, titles not available in 3D are at a significant disadvantage.”

The major crucial factor behind the decline is 3D screen capacity, Jones said, and “3D movie revenues are being squeezed because we’re seeing more 3D releases in the same time frame.”

Time in 3D theaters per title is down, too, she said, from 8.7 weeks in 2008 to just 3.1 weeks this year. The 2010 schedule, with some 30 3D features slated, could drive the time down to as little as 1.8 weeks.

This crush undermines some of the advantages of 3D, she said, “including a stronger run over the duration of a title.”

Attendees at the Hilton heard complaints about the lack of 3D screens starting with the morning keynote, from Henry Selick, writer-director of the hit animated feature “Coraline.”

“I feel positively about designing the film for 3D and disappointed about how few people got to see it in the ideal way,” said Selick.

Opening on Feb. 6, “Coraline” found itself wedged behind “My Bloody Valentine” but managed to book approximately two-thirds of the 900 available 3D screens for three weeks. Then Disney’s “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience” knocked it out of 3D theaters, though some rebooked “Coraline” when the Jonas Brothers failed to live up to expectations.

“In a very small window, we did almost 85% of our business on those screens vs. 2D,” Selick said. But he also said he thought the final $75 million total would have been much higher if the pic had had all the 3D screens available at the time.

“Coraline” was a recurring topic as executives and analysts discussed the need for more screens. Tim League, founder of the small Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, said that when his complex played the pic, “The 3D theater was a smaller venue, but the 3D numbers were 40% higher.”


  1. says

    Mark my words people this wave of 3d movies happens every 10 years or so and then it goes away. 3d movies are nothing more than a gimmick. I know more sci-fi 3d movie back history then you

  2. Mitch from Omaha says

    Sista, you’re not wrong. It’s something I noticed in a lot of movie reviews this year, talk of the 3D cycle. It phases in and out, and theater owners aren’t willing to spend a ton of money to make all their screens 3D, knowing that it’ll go out of fashion in a year or two, and they’ll still be stuck trying to pay for the conversions.

    By 2011, two years from now, there probably won’t be more than one, MAYBE two films released in that format. It’ll all be onto the next big thing.

  3. says

    I’m also apathetic to this schtick of 3-D movies. For a movie aimed at children, fine. It adds a silly little perk to the viewing experience. For an adult, however, I’m unsure just how I should be excited about it … let alone when the majority of films being released are cheesy, third-rate horror flicks.

  4. says

    This is not part of a recurring cycle. 3-D is here and it’s going to stay. It may take a while, but it’s the “camel’s nose”

    Yes, it used to be just a gimmic, and many times nowadays it still is. But that’s because filmakers don’t know how, or don’t care how, to do it *properly*.

    3-D is how we see the world everyday, as well as stereo sound and in color. Is stereo (or 5.1 Dolby, or whatever) just a fad? Is color just a fad? BOTH of those can be done poorly, or even badly … that does not mean that the underlying concept is “bad”

    When directors “learn” how to do 3-D “properly” (like UP) more and more folks will come to undersand that this is just another step in the evolution of film making.

  5. Lurch says

    I also think 3D is perhaps finally poised to “get it right;” IMO it all comes down to filmmakers treating it as a screwdriver rather than a sledgehammer, utilizing it as a subtle, precision-based tool rather than a sheer bludgeoning force. When used for general depth-of-field enhancements 3D is great and an indicator of the next step in visual storytelling; it’s only when movies get hamfisted and constantly “throw crap at the viewer” that 3D is seen as nothing more than a cheap gimmick.


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