3-D Theater Revenues Decline, Though Root Cause Remains Uncetain

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News Posted: Sun, Sep 18 2011 9:04 PM
The consumer love affair with 3-D technology has waxed hot and cold for the last century, and current data indicates that's not going to change. A surge in 3-D movie ticket sales several years ago jump-started the film and display industries' most recent attempt to push the technology  but consumers simply aren't biting.

A recent report from Slate catalogs a fresh year of data as a follow-up to an August, 2010 piece on slumping 3-D ticket sales. 12 months later, things have only gotten worse. A few years ago, theatre owners who invested in 3-D screens were realizing a substantial return on their investments thanks to significantly higher revenues on a per-screen basis. Now, those gains have turned negative, with 3-D screens actually returning less revenue overall in 2011 than their 2D counterparts.


Graph reprinted from Slate

A number of factors have contributed to the current situation. Once theatres realized people were willing to pay a premium to watch 3-D content, they responded by raising ticket prices ~10 percent over and above the $2-$3 premium
that 3-D tickets already commanded. This accounts for part of the steepness of the decline over the past 12 months, but not the general trend. The quality of the 3-D conversion may have played a part, but this is less certain--films with high-quality, well-received 3-D conversions have also suffered from lousy sales.

A larger problem appears to be that the quality of 3-D films is, on average, lower than the quality of 2-D movies. This is perhaps the most dangerous explanation--if true, it implies that consumers may have begun to link "3-D" and "lower-quality", even if the link isn't concious. From 2004-2010, the average Rotten Tomato rating of a 3-D film was 57 percent. From 2010-2011, it's dropped to 41 percent.  That includes the impact of all the extremely well-rated films also released on 3-D.

Lower-quality films would explain a general trend away from 3-D viewing--but fails to explain why specific, highly successful films like the latest Harry Potter, with great 3-D versions, have still failed to even match 2D earnings. The complexity of the problem suggests that 3-D may never escape the cycle of valuable novelty / financial liability.

Unlike surround sound or color broadcasting, up to 10 percent of people have vision problems that make it difficult or impossible for them to see 3-D in the first place. A significant percentage of the rest suffer from nausea and motion sickness. The rest don't respond to 3-D content--even top-tier, high-quality content--in a consistent manner. Why did Tron: Legacy's 3-D sell well, while Harry Potter's 3-D take was abysmal?

Without an answer to the question and the assurance that consumers are going to gobble up 3-D and pay corresponding premiums, there's precious little reason for movie and television studios to pay good money to create 3-D content. Gaming is an unlikely savior, despite the efforts both Nvidia and ATI have made to support it on. The revolution isn't happening.
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AKwyn replied on Sun, Sep 18 2011 9:27 PM

This is like a repeat with what happened with CinemaScope in the 50's... I guess people don't want to pay to see horrible non-special movies with no plot in them in 3D.

 

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My personal opinion is that all movies do not need to be seen in 3D most are just a waste. For example Tron or Transformers I would see in 3D but I don't need to see Beverly Hill Chihuahua part 17 and a 1/2 in 3D. It really seems like the studios feel the need to release everything in both 2D and 3D.

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I have to agree with omegadraco; only a few movies actually are good in 3D, many are a waist. To me if the movie looks ok and its only in 3D i wont go see it, but if its in standard 2D then I probably would have seen it.

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gazd1 replied on Mon, Sep 19 2011 6:53 AM

I'll have to disagree with the 2nd & 3rd posts. I am just a new comer to watching 3-D at the cinemas & I enjoy it more than watching 2-D. In fact I'll be just watching 3-D instead of the 2-D version at cinemas. Anyway their profit downturn is due to the economic downturn that we all are experiencing ourselves. Although I think that this is closer to a depression than a economic downturn or recession, what ever. I do believe that the worse is yet to come for us all & in fact I think that there might be a few minor up turns every now & again, but you can expect it to get worse over the next few decades or more.

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acarzt replied on Mon, Sep 19 2011 10:52 AM

I don't like having to put (9 times out of 10) uncomfortable glasses on my face just to watch a movie. And if you didn't get a good seat, the frame of said glasses can hinder vision. On top of that, to me it feels like the 3d takes away from the movie because they intentionally do gimmicky things to remind you you're watching 3D. It's annoying.

I'll stick to my 2D films :-)

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AKwyn replied on Mon, Sep 19 2011 11:50 AM

gazd1:

I'll have to disagree with the 2nd & 3rd posts. I am just a new comer to watching 3-D at the cinemas & I enjoy it more than watching 2-D. In fact I'll be just watching 3-D instead of the 2-D version at cinemas. Anyway their profit downturn is due to the economic downturn that we all are experiencing ourselves. Although I think that this is closer to a depression than a economic downturn or recession, what ever. I do believe that the worse is yet to come for us all & in fact I think that there might be a few minor up turns every now & again, but you can expect it to get worse over the next few decades or more.

I've been watching 3D longer then you have; hell, I'm one of the few people who cached the first showing of Avatar in 3D; and the 3D worked in that movie. The problem is that Hollywood is attaching 3D to movies that don't really need it, making it a selling point (you know, go out and buy money for the movie) but the selling points aren't working since the movies Hollywood is making are either 3D-incompatible/crap. I mean we've got a few gems (like Super 8), we've even got the summer blockbusters (Transformers) but we have not had anything decent in a long time. I mean we've had generic action movies, horrible comedies and just weak attempts at horror (a genre which is very overrated and will never die.), and most of them are done in 3D.

I'll pay when it's worth it to see it in 3D but if it's not worth it then those people in Hollywood aren't getting my 3D money.

 

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jonation replied on Mon, Sep 19 2011 12:30 PM

why not, slap another camera (sidebyside) on the rig and film away. The 3D-ness comes from post- which thanks to digital format is soo much nicer. They just render 2 versions of the movie and charge different rates for them.

I think it should only be used when it enhances the film with the larger depth of field. Not gimmicky crap or to distract from a bad story/plot/acting.

The thing that kills it for me- I will never pay $20 to watch a movie. Never. It's hardly worth $8.

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rapid1 replied on Mon, Sep 19 2011 3:00 PM

I could have told you this 5 years ago. Another thing like Taylor said about Avatar if the movie is not completely digital it is not as seamless in 3D. But really 3D has always been a gimmicky thing anyway, and someone is basing the future of there part of the product/media market on a gimmick, REALLY!

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rrplay replied on Mon, Sep 19 2011 7:00 PM

yeah I never got into any of the movie theater 3D stuff.just a bit too gimicky and not worth the bother for the end result.
The psychological promise and anticipation  seemed to far outweigh the actual user experience,Maybe it's a bit of marketing to get the folks into the show on a movie's first weekly run .For the last few years I have been limiting my occasional theater experience to films that I would like to see on the big screen with the big sound..Films like Master and Commander ,King Kong U-571 do not need 3-D and the experience on the big screen is practically a must see.,unless you have a 30 foot screen and very big mulit-channel pro-sound in your digs.

Give us more great story line and character to give hoot about combined with the magic' of the almost forgotten art of American Filming  .only refer to that 'cuz :

Why is it that many films that have been around for quite some time>> & do not have all the 'bling' ,[color] special effects,' non-stop >ya-da-da action are always a pleasure to watch again ? or maybe it's more of the social getting out and going to show ..? idk

 

 

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" I dont have much to add from what everyone is saying, but if theres a movie in 3D that made me Puke, its Resident Evil Afterlife, sh*t, I left the movie theatre about halfway through. I cant believe They messed up the Resident Evil movie franchise after Extinction revived it. Afterlife sold well because of Extintion, they thought it was going to continue on the goodness, only to disappoint. "

"The best ever , offcourse, Avatar, I also liked Tron, Transformers 3, and Clash of the Titan was good."

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rrplay replied on Tue, Sep 20 2011 12:44 AM

OptimusPrimeTime:

" I dont have much to add from what everyone is saying, .... thought it was going to continue on the goodness, only to disappoint. "

"The best ever , offcourse, Avatar, I also liked Tron, Transformers 3, and Clash of the Titan was good."

yep that happens when you get to post and sometimes feel that all has been already said.,Happens to me too sometime and think that any contribution may be a re-iteration or not up to snuff. a new member from the other side of the world commented in another thread:

..you guys not just Geniuses buy Very Kind, selfless, ethical people.
  well OK [blush] ..>>>so maybe @Optimus the theater going audience has almost become accustomed to rather lame& mundane experiences when the films do not deliver the goods.how many time have some of remarked 'How the heck can they screw that one up ?"Geez lesson learned and attendance drops 'ucz a family night at the movies costs a heck of a lot more than before.

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realneil replied on Tue, Sep 20 2011 11:29 PM

3D isn't worth spending anything extra for it. It gives me headaches when I go and isn't advanced enough to matter to me anyway. A 2D movie done right is good for me.

3D can relegate itself to the forgotten gimmick pile anytime and I'll get over it.

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wuliheron replied on Thu, Sep 22 2011 5:09 AM

Stereoscopic 3D was a fad in the 50s and it became a fad again because the technology is finally maturing a little. End of story. Check with websites like Meant To Be Seen In 3D and its pretty obvious the technology has limited applications that it is particularly attractive for. Those include sports and video games, especially driving and flying games, and don't include a lot of movies. However, size does matter with S3D. Watching stuff fly out of the screen has a bigger impact when it isn't tiny and, so, the Imax first popularized the new fad.

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