The present and future of post production business and technology

Has 3D Already Failed?

Has 3D Already Failed?

Now I’m a 3D skeptic: it can really enhance selected films, but it should not ever be the “norm” because the problems outweigh the benefits for most movies. Now this article comes along and reviews the economics: does the additional cost of 3D return a benefit at the box office? It turns out that it probably isn’t any more.

Despite the fact that 3D brought in higher grosses for the more successful films in that format last year, some experts are pointing to a decline in revenues over the year. In July of last year, Daniel Frankel published a widely cited chart called “The Rise & Fall of 3D” on The Wrap showing that since the release of Avatar the previous December, the proportion of the opening weekend box-office for major films coming from 3D screenings had declined:

There’s a revenue chart at that point showing declining benefit from 3D for a movie’s gross. Particularly telling is what happened with Toy Story III where there was no shortage of 3D screens to show it on (highest number ever for a release) but:

Not only that, but Engber points out that the 2D versions of Toy Story 3 actually outperformed the 3D ones:

Then we come to the weekend of June 18, 2010, when Toy Story 3 opened in more than 4,000 theaters around the country. It was a huge weekend for the Pixar film—one of the biggest of all time, in fact, with more than $110 million in total revenue, and $66 million from 3-D. Yet a close look at the numbers shows something else: On average, Toy Story 3 pulled in $27,000 for every theater showing the movie in 3-D, and $28,000 for every one that showed it flat. In other words, the net effect of showing Woody, Buzz, and friends in full stereo depth was negative 5 percent. The format was losing money.

We’ll see if 3D maintains its prominence as we move forward. I have two primary concerns, beyond the usual:

  • Wearing the 3D glasses keeps reminding me that I’m outside the experience looking in, something that’s not obvious without the glasses; and
  • Every time we change camera angles, in 3D I need to take a moment to work out where I am in space, taking me out of the movie for just a moment-at every cut!

3D is not like color where the benefit was immediately obvious and no special equipment – projector or viewer – was required. All upside, no downside. 3D is not so simple.

Walter Murch weighed in through an email to Roger Ebert: “Why 3D doesn’t work and never will. Case closed







5 responses to “Has 3D Already Failed?”

  1. I make no predictions about the longevity of 3D, but since I bought a 3D TV and watched as much as there is to watch on it (not much, yet) I’ve noticed something. When I’m watching a 2D show, I often find myself missing the 3D. A lot.

    We’d all like to see improvements in the 3D experience (better glasses, smoother transitions, etc.) but IMHO it really adds something. I can certainly imagine the day when it is the norm.

    The more you watch 3D the easier it is to watch, the shorter and less noticeable is the adjustment time when the scene changes, etc. The brain learns and adapts. Because I watch more 3D than most people, this probably means I’m not going to be allowed to have an opinion about it much longer, because my brain won’t be typical. 🙂

    Final thought: I actually prefer 3D on a TV rather than on the big screen. If the market as a whole agreed, that would throw another monkey wrench into the economics of it.


    1. For me the biggest issue to 3D TV is that I rarely “just” watch TV. TV and conversation; TV and computer; TV and cooking… but rarely TV only. Can’t see how that would fit with the 3D glasses.

      I guess I’m atypical the other way Bruce!

  2. 3D in a Movie does nto matter.

    A movie is mostly about story.
    And if your concentrating on that, 3D just takes away from the brain cycles your using in getting engulfed into the story line.

    I find, after watching a decent movie, being 3D becomes a side issue. In the end it does not add a lot to the experience. Avatar is a very special case, but generally, all other 3D files I have seen.

    Due to this and how 3D does make the overall visual quality less, brightness/colour.
    I have come to prefer 2D over 3D, in general.

    And I think this is a global stance the world is coming to, as such, 3D is going down.


  3. I don’t think 3D should be seen as a replace to 2D – it is just a extra feature which some TV will be able handle. Certain programs, like the news will have no need for it. Don’t forget 3D Tvs can still show 2D programs, its just a option like surround sound, HD and any other technological development

  4. Foca furiosa

    I dont see software in pc or mac or google becoming 3d. Dont see nf, or hbo converting, dont see xbox or wii(you) going 3d. So… No reson of buying a 3dset to watch a few movies until the industry commits. Remember 1020p? Everyone started producing content, so it worked. I do see a great oportunity in handheld, no eyewear required 3d. Nintendo of course is leading the way. Great posibilities there.