US Cinemagoers Show Fatigue Towards 3D Movies

Jonathan Sutton

The record-breaking box office success of Avatar 3D towards the end of last year has breathe life into 3D movies, with a number of film studios and producers eager to jump on the 3D bandwagon either by shooting in true 3D or by converting filmed 2D content to 3D post-production. But judging from a recent report on the proportion of box office revenues coming from 3D screens, cinemagoers may be showing signs of fatigue towards 3D movies., an online magazine covering entertainment and media business news, plotted a graph depicting the percentages of opening-weekend US box office revenue that came from 3D screens over time based on data supplied by BTIG Research, and it does not look pretty.

Since the high point of Avatar back in December 2009, when 71% of US audience opted for the heavily marketed 3D movie instead of the traditional 2D version, the proportion of cinema goers choosing to pay more for the privilege of donning 3D glasses to watch the 3D versions has been dropping at an alarming rate in just a short 8 months. The latest pair of 3D movies in the chart – The Last Airbender released on the 1st of July and Despicable Me a week later – garnered only 56% and 45% of their respective ticket sales from 3D screens.

One reason could be that American consumers do not think it worthwhile to spend up to USD $5 – or 33% – more in ticket prices to watch the 3D versions when they have to wear 3D glasses which dim the on-screen brightness and blur the peripheral vision. Furthermore, they may have been disappointed by the unimpressive 3D effects resulting from shoddy 2D-to-3D conversion hastily put together as an afterthought (for quick release to cash in on 3D-enthused crowd) on certain movies like Clash Of The Titans and The Last Airbender.

Besides an increasing number of US cinemagoers, a few Hollywood personalities are resisting the 3D fad as well. Christopher Nolan, the critically acclaimed British director of Memento, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, reportedly refused to employ 3D technology to shoot his latest hit Inception for fear that the picture (as perceived by the eyes through the 3D glasses) is too dim. Roger Ebert, the preeminent American film critic, heavily criticised Hollywood’s currently obsession with 3D, calling it as distracting, annoying, and just a ploy to hike up ticket prices.

Of course, should consumers continue to lose interest in 3D movies, film studios will probably be less inclined to invest in 3D productions, which may exacerbate the dearth of 3D content inhibiting 3D TV and related hardware sales.