3D for Declining Revenue

By Ted Baehr and David Outten

AVATAR made a mint on 3D showings but the major studio’s rush to capitalize on premium 3D ticket prices is resulting in diminishing returns. Theaters, desperate to attract more customers, have been adding 3D screens much like they added Cinemascope screens in

the 1950s.

Last year HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON opened with 34 percent of its screens being 3D. These screens drew 57 percent of the opening box office. Audiences chose to pay the premium to see 3D.

More recently, KUNG FU PANDA 2 opened with 53 percent of its screens 3D. These screens drew only 45 percent of the opening box office even with higher ticket prices. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 4 did even worse. Sixty-six percent of its opening screens were 3D and they drew only 44 percent of opening box office.

The eNewsletter The Wrap says the movie industry is “panicked” that 3D is losing its “wow” factor.

More 3D releases are in the works, including Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, Steven Spielberg’s THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: DARK OF THE MOON and Peter Jackson’s two HOBBIT movies.

Hollywood has been through this before with Cinemascope, Todd-AO and IMAX. Regardless of the latest visual treat offered as grounds for premium ticket prices, the real reason people go to movies is entertainment value. A bad movie in 3D still offers low entertainment value, and, if given a big price difference, many people will pass up on the new visual gimmick and just go watch the story.

Julie Andrews and director Robert Wise teamed up to provide THE SOUND OF MUSIC in Todd-AO (70mm). The result was a box office miracle. The same pair made STAR in Todd-AO (70mm) just three years later. The result was a box office thud. The cake was the script. Todd-AO (70mm) was icing. If people don’t want the cake, they won’t come for the icing.

The key to success in the movie business will always be good movies.