3-D Is Alive and Well

By Tom Houseman

July 30, 2010

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While 3-D tickets accounted for 82% of the box-office revenue for Avatar when it was released in December, Universal's July 9th opening of Despicable Me took in an estimated 45% of its revenue from 3-D screens. It follows a pretty steady decline seen by other hot 3-D releases from Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon, to Tim Burton's remake of Alice in Wonderland.

Again, this is a matter of manipulating statistics to prove a point. Typically, no, animated films don’t make as significant a portion of their revenue from 3-D screens as live-action films do. Also, most importantly, films that are marketed on the backs of their visuals will make more from 3-D than those that aren’t. Case in point, Avatar, Alice and Titans earned enormous amounts from 3-D while Shrek 4 and Despicable Me made only sizable amounts. Mr. Roane is trying to make the numbers fit his argument, but I’m pretty sure that working that hard causes headaches and eyestrain in people with certain vision problems.

Most interesting, according to Greenfield, is that in some cases movies with a wider release on 3-D screens are doing worse in terms of 3-D revenue than those that had more limited 3-D screen penetration. Shrek Forever After, for instance, brought in a smaller percentage of revenue from 3-D screens than How to Train a Dragon, despite being released on about 200 more 3-D screens.


This Greenfield fellow has a strange idea of what’s considered “interesting.” This goes back to the argument that I just made. How to Train Your Dragon marketed itself as a visual extravaganza akin to Avatar, while Shrek Forever After marketed itself as a cute, clever comedy akin to Shrek the Third. Having seen neither of these films I can’t attest to the accuracy of those statements, but which would you rather see in 3-D? The visual extravaganza or the cute, clever comedy? Also, Shrek Forever After was released on over 300 more screens than How to Train Your Dragon overall, but that would go in the department of facts that prove this article is completely wrong, and as such is dutifully ignored along with the mountain of others.

I know that 3-D is not always going to be the insane cash cow that it has been so far. I would equate it to the CGI animation trend. At first there were only a few CGI films, and it was new and exciting, so everybody wanted to go see it. Then all of the studios started to get in, and more and more products clogged the market. The Ant Bully was the first official CGI bomb, and there will someday be its 3-D equivalent, but The Last Airbender certainly wasn’t it. Even when that day arrives, 3-D won’t go anywhere. The pool of films released in 3-D might shrink, but it will still be significant, and it will still account for a significant source of revenue for the studios. No matter what you, Ebert, or Mr. Roane says, 3-D is alive and well and living in our movie theaters.

I hope that you’re still reading this, and that you understand the arguments that I’m making, even if you don’t necessarily agree with all of them. If you have any more comments to make, I would love to hear them.


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