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Trends We’re Thankful For: Declining 3D Ticket Sales

Normally, the gratitude we feel on Thanksgiving does not come with a sarcastic twist, but who among us that follows the annual hoopla of the wide-release movie circuit isn’t thrilled that 3D officially became no longer just a despised format (see 2010) but a financially meaningless one (2011).

Many news outlets reported over the summer that 3D was reeling a bit, and though Transformers: Dark of the Moon managed to give studios some hope, it proved to be the exception. Not even the final “Harry Potter” installment did well in 3D, with 43 percent of all tickets sold being for 3D showings. This fall, the few movies offered in 3D (other than the exception I’ll mention later) had a 50-60 percent 3D ticket share in the U.S. Even The Three Musketeers, as poorly as it performed and as much as it flaunted the special effects, did just better than half its business in 3D screenings. 

And there’s some bad blood now too. Sony caused a stir earlier this fall when it announced plans to no longer pay for the cost of 3D glasses, passing the burden on to already ailing theaters who as we now know aren’t selling an abundantly greater number of 3D tickets anyway.

Yet the extra dimension isn’t going to just die like a fad, this we know. Disney’s rollout of The Lion King in 3D this fall did gangbusters and more re-releases are underway including Beauty and the Beast early next year. And with filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese (this weekend’s Hugo), Ridley Scott (next summer’s Prometheus) and even Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby) shooting in 3D and praising it, there’s some artistic viability too. 

Slowly disappearing, however, are the days of films needlessly converting all their films to 3D or studio pressure to convert or shoot using the fusion camera technology. Essentially, audiences have proven with this year’s dwindling attendance that they want good stories and that they’ll see a film in 3D if it’s proven to enhance the experience of an already strong film. 3D in an of itself — not a draw.

So we can be thankful that in the future we won’t be inundated with tons of 3D showtimes and not enough 2D ones and when we do have 3D options, it should be for a film that stands to be better for being in 3D. Sure, there will be some sour holdovers that were put in motion before this realization (see Journey 2: The Mysterious Island), but our temples and the bridges of our noses won’t be losing any sleep over the thought of having to wear those damn glasses again.


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