3D Movies Go Flat

Bad news for the film industry that thought 3D was going to be the goose that laid the golden egg. Research just published by BTIG Research. In mid 2009 when there were around 2,000 3D capable screens in the US and 55% of box-office revenues came from 3D films. Revenues reached a peak at 70% share when the number of screens had grown to 11,000, but have now dived to less than 50% even though the number of 3D enabled screens continues to grow.

Then movie executives breathlessly explained that they “had yet to discover the maximum premium the public is prepared to pay for the 3D experience”. The premium at the time was an nauseating 49%. Now we know it is a maximum of $3.

So are audiences giving up on 3D? Well a tsunami of rotten content, cheaply and badly converted from 2D may have something to do with it. Or maybe it is the movie makers who think that adding 3D to a movie will transform it from a dog to a princess. News just in guys: it won’t.

Just take a look at the highest grossing films each year for the last 30 years (thanks to IMDB.com).

Year Total Gross
(millions of US dollars)
2010 $10,565.4 Toy Story 3
2009 $10,595.5 Avatar
2008 $9,630.6 The Dark Knight
2007 $9,663.7 Spider-Man 3
2006 $9,209.5 Dead Man’s Chest
2005 $8,840.5 Revenge of the Sith
2004 $9,380.5 Shrek 2
2003 $9,239.7 Return of the King
2002 $9,155.0 Spider-Man
2001 $8,412.5 Harry Potter / Sorcerer’s Stone
2000 $7,661.0 The Grinch
1999 $7,448.0 The Phantom Menace
1998 $6,949.0 Saving Private Ryan
1997 $6,365.9 Titanic
1996 $5,911.5 Independence Day
1995 $5,493.5 Toy Story
1994 $5,396.2 Forrest Gump
1993 $5,154.2 Jurassic Park
1992 $4,871.0 Aladdin
1991 $4,803.2 Terminator 2
1990 $5,021.8 Home Alone
1989 $5,033.4 Batman
1988 $4,458.4 Rain Man
1987 $4,252.9 Three Men and a Baby
1986 $3,778.0 Top Gun
1985 $3,749.2 Back to the Future
1984 $4,031.0 Beverly Hills Cop
1983 $3,766.0 Return of the Jedi
1982 $3,453.0 E.T.
1981 $2,966.0 Raiders / Lost Ark
1980 $2,749.0 The Empire Strikes Back

They are nearly all big spectacle movies, with lots of visual effects. On the whole they have a good storyline and offer the audience a complete dramatic experience. I think that is what we pay for when we go to the movies. 3D can be a part of it, but it can’t replace it.

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