3-D Continues Downturn After ‘Kung-Fu Panda 2’ and ‘Pirates 4’

Last week Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides had the largest opening weekend of the year bringing in an impressive $90 million. Disney dedicated a significant portion of their marketing dollars to the fact that the film was being released in Disney Digital 3-D and IMAX 3-D. Over half of the screens with Pirates 4 were playing the film in some form of 3-D. However, according to The Wrap only 38% of the films opening domestic gross came from 3-D screens.

This past weekend Kung Fu Panda 2 opened on 3-D screens around the country. Dreamworks Animation has been one of the biggest pioneers of 3-D technology and has been releasing all of its films in the format. According to Deadline 2010’s Shrek Forever After was on 343 fewer 3-D screens than Kung Fu Panda 2 yet it earned 60% of its domestic gross from 3-D while Kung Fu Panda 2 only earned 45% of its opening from 3-D. The number of 3-D screens has increased in theatres across the United States, yet the percentage of each film’s subsequent gross from the medium has been decreasing.

Investors are definitely starting to notice this trend as shares of the 3-D technology firm RealD were down 12% in trading today bringing its two week loss total to 23%. Some of the 3-D numbers are deceiving like the fact that 6 out of the 10 highest grossing films worldwide in 2010 were released in 3-D. It begs the question of whether these films would still be on top had they not been released in 3-D. 2011 will feature more 3-D releases than any year in history and many filmmakers, such as James Cameron are champions of the technology.

The recent activity at the Box Office for 3-D does seem to indicate that the general viewing public is tiring of the heightened ticket prices and overall inconvenience of a 3-D film. Animated films are suffering the most as they are often attended by families who have a larger overall ticket price to pay. There is an obvious hesitancy about the technology among the internet movie community with many reporting boos whenever a trailer ends with “Coming in 3D.”

3-D technology has been around for over 80 years and it has seen its share of bucks and trends. It had a hey-day in the 1950s with dozens of films getting 3-D releases in a very short amount of time. It re-emerged in the 1980s briefly with films like Parasite and re-releases of classic horror movies before slowing down in the 90s. The trend has very recently returned for one of its most popular surges in history. The recent downtrend signified by Pirates 4 and Kung Fu Panda 2 may indicate a decrease in the 3-D glut, but it certainly does not mean the technology is going away.

There are dozens of detractors of 3-D who would like to see it gone, but personally I don’t agree with that. Instead of the disappearance of 3-D I would much prefer a slow down that ensures movies are only being released in 3-D if they have absolutely earned it.

What do you think? How does a movie earn being released in 3-D?

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