3D Standardization Necessary for Growth

Hollywood studios will need to come to a consensus with component makers on picking a limited number of 3D technology standards within the next couple years in order to take advantage of the growth of 3D-capable TVs and provide a shot in the arm to a DVD industry that has had falling sales over the last couple of years, according to Futuresource.

With more moviegoers willing to pay higher ticket prices to experience 3D through films such as last year's Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, the DVD industry has about a 10-year window to benefit from the novelty of 3D by charging higher prices for 3D discs, which require between 35% more and double the data of a typical Blu-ray title.

The U.K.-based research firm, which estimates that no-3D-glasses technology will overtake 3D glasses as the primary viewing method within about a decade, will release a study on the growth of 3D technology and consumption in March.

As many as 3 million U.S. consumers own 3D-capable TVs, though most people don't know how to use the feature, which allows for separate image projection for the left and right eyes to simulate a three-dimensional picture, said Bill Foster, Futuresource's senior technology consultant. U.S. sales of 3D-capable TVs will jump to 7.7 million units this year and will approach the 30 million mark by 2012, as companies including Samsung and Panasonic include the feature in most of their new sets, said Chris Chinnock, president of consultant Insight Media, late last year.

"Certain studios had their reasons for wanting Blu-ray, because they were already thinking about 3D," said Foster, adding that the data capabilities make Blu-ray the most viable home-entertainment growth area for the technology because of bandwidth constraints faced by broadcasters. "But there has to be some technology standard. You just can't have anarchy."

Studios and component makers alike who have been counting on high-definition Blu-ray discs to reverse DVD spending declines are hoping for 3D to do the same.

Likely spurring interest in 3D home entertainment is the growth of such movies in theaters, which usually charge about $5 more per ticket for 3D titles than for standard films. About 70 3D movies are in production worldwide, with Hollywood studios accounting for about half of those films, according to Sarah Carroll, Futuresource's head of continuous services.

Walt Disney's Hannah grossed about $70 million in theaters after its February release.

"Clearly, Hollywood is driving the way with 3D cinema," said Carroll, whose firm estimates that about 1,000 of the 38,000 U.S. movie screens are 3D-capable. "The fact they’ve been able to get higher prices has proved very encouraging."

By Danny King, VideoBusiness