The Revival of 3D Movies

"Hollywood is making itself over again this time using next generation 3D technology to keep the moviegoers coming back for more. Want proof? By the numbers, this past weekend’s top ranking film Beowulf, took in over $27M, was shown at 3,153 locations with an average take of $8,727. By contrast, number two, Bee Movie screened at almost 4,000 locations with an average take of just $3,516.

What helped create the 2.5x delta between the average take of these top two movies was clearly the 3D showings of Beowulf. Only a one-fifth of the 3153 locations were in 3D, but theater owners can charge up to $3 more for the enhanced experience. A full 40% of the Beowulf revenue was earned from 850 3D screenings in both regular theaters equipped with RealD and Dolby 3D technology and Imax screens. Paramount general sales manager Don Harris said "Twenty percent of the screens produced 40 percent of the gross."

Specifically, the 850 3-D screens were in 742 locations including 84 Imax screens, which contributed almost $3.6M, or a whopping $42,619 per screen. "That’s 13% of the overall box-office" according to Imax’s Greg Foster. And the moviegoers most likely to see this flick - 60% male, with 50% of patrons under age 25.

"There was a great contribution from the 3-D screens, and it tells you that the audience is really interested in experiencing the richness and strength that the 3D experience gives you. It really gives us great encouragement going forward about what 3-D can do," said Rob Moore, Paramount’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution.

Our take is that economics is driving the 3D technology into the theaters as the number of moviegoers is dropping. For instance, Media By Numbers said this week’s ticket sales were off 3% and the gross from the top 12 films was down almost 30% from the same week last year. Overall, theater attendance is down 8 of the past 9 weeks, according to the group.

These numbers are no surprise as the trend in home theaters continues to grow. High-end systems have been around for years with dedicated rooms, but now large flat panel displays are becoming the norm in most US homes, with full HD leading the charge.

So movie theaters are turning once again to technology that goes beyond the home experience, (remember "CinemaScope," "Vista-Vision," or even "Superrama" and "Glamorama" wide screen experiences?) all created to lure moviegoers back into the theaters. But this is not a bad thing. Today’s HD standard may not have included the 16:9 format without the widescreen experience of the 1950’s.

But like full-HD bringing the movie theater into the home, the home 3D experience may not be far behind and even perhaps much closer than most expect."

By Steve Sechrist, Display Daily