The Death of 3D
Though 3D has always been hit-or-miss with audiences, this summer has been particularly devastating, two movies opening just a week apart have set new record lows for 3D grosses:
3D showings of Turbo accounted for just 25 percent of its total box office, which represents the format's worst showing yet. The Wolverine fared only slightly better, with 3D screenings contributing 30 percent of its $53.1 million opening weekend.
That's a new low for both 3D action and and animated films. That grand dishonor was previously held by Captain America: The First Avenger which took 40 percent of its opening weekend from 3D and Brave which earned only 34 percent of its opening weekend profits from 3D showings, respectively.
The main problem with 3D is that it is, more often than not, simply a gimmick. Most films released in 3D were not actually shot that way, but rather converted digitally in post-production. It was not the director's artistic vision that an explosion goes off right in the audience's face, but a decision made by the studio so it could charge $18 instead of $14 per ticket. There are exceptions, of course, but even those are inconsistent. The Great Gatsby was, by all means, a financial success, having earned more than $144 million domestically to date against a budget of $105 million. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was far less successful in the U.S. Both were filmed in 3D.
3D was introduced as the future of cinema. Not like schlocky old-school 3D with red and blue glasses, this technology was a totally immersive experience made possible by decidedly more fashionable eyewear. It was expected to account for at least 40 percent of a film's domestic gross, but that never happened. "3D attach rates in the 30-35 percent range that were previously reserved only for the animated genre have now become more of the norm for action/superhero movies – which indicates that the 3D choosiness of consumers has become increasingly pervasive throughout more genres," B. Riley & Co analyst Eric Wold wrote in a report about 3D movies.
There is, of course, well-done 3D. It's simply overused: the manic pixie dream girl of post-production, if you will. Perhaps numbers like this will encourage studios to use the technology sparingly, not every film needs to be experienced in three dimensions. Sometimes, a dark room, popcorn, a good story and a big screen are enough.