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3 Signs That 3D Movies Are The Way Of The Future


Avatar movie

Some people say that 3D is simply a fad that will run its course. That it's an easy cash grab or gimmick by studios.  

And we understand the argument — 3D tickets are expensive!

While the average price of a regular movie ticket hit $8.12 last year, you have to shell out somewhere between $10 to $18.50 (Union Square, New York City) for a 3D ticket.  

If you're spending that much money to see a film, you're looking for a reason to justify paying that price. And if you're seeing a 2D film converted into 3D, sometimes you may feel like you're not getting your money's worth. 

Like it or not, however, 3D's here to stay — at least until the next big thing (Peter Jackson's high-frame rate projection, perhaps). When you crunch the numbers, three things are obvious.  

1. There's been a large increase of 3D screen installments in theaters:

After the release of "Avatar" in 2009, the number of 3D digital screens exploded worldwide.

2005: 98 
2006: 258 
2007: 1,300
2008: 3,800
2009: 9,000
2010: 16,000
2011: 36,000
2012: 43,000

Of course, the return of 3D to theaters came well before Avatar in 2009.  

There were approximately four films in 2005 released in the U.S. in 3D: "Aliens of the Deep,""The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl,""Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D," and "Chicken Little." None of them except Disney's "Chicken Little" earned more than $70 million worldwide.

Soon after "Avatar" became the highest-grossing film to date, it seemed like everyone jumped on the 3D bandwagon.  

In 2010, the number of 3D screens installed more than doubled from 16,339 to 36,242. As a result, at least 30 films were presented in the format in the U.S., making up nearly 20 percent of the global box office that year

In 2009, Screen Digest predicted there would be 15,000 3D cinema screens by 2013

2. There are more 3D films being released every year:

This year, Box Office estimates 39 films will be available to see in the U.S. in 3D. Here's a rundown of how 3D films have blown up on screens since 2005. Note the blowup occurs in 2009 when a big push of 3D cinema screens emerged.

2005: 4 
2006: 7 
2007: 7 
2008: 8 
2009: 20 
2010: 30 
2011: 38
2012: 38

3. Most importantly, 3D films are actually earning money:

chris hemsworth thor the avengersFor the most part, the latest round of films to come out in 3D are earning money. 

Of the current ten highest-grossing 3D films, three were from 2012 alone ("The Avengers,""The Hobbit," and "The Amazing Spider-Man"). 

After looking at the highest-grossing films of 2012, nine of the top 15 were in 3D, helping to make this year at the box office the biggest yet with a projected $10.8 million earnings worldwide

Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, shared another important fact about 3D with us — the lucrative international revenue. 

"It's important to remember that 3D does dynamite overseas, accounting for a significant percentage of foreign box office for the studios," says Gomez. "So I don't think the studios will be put off the process any time soon." 

In 2010, the 3D international box office tripled, earning $3.9 billion

This year, of the nine high-grossing 3D films, eight of them fared much better overseas:


 Film  Domestic  Foreign
 "The Avengers"  $623.4 million  $888.4 million
 "Ice Age: Continental Drift"  $161.2 million  $714 million
 "The Hobbit"  $266.7 million  $562.8 million
 "Madagascar 3"  $216.4 million  $525.7 million
 "The Amazing Spider-Man"  $262 million  $490.2 million
 "Men in Black 3"  $179 million  $445 million
 "Brave"  $237.3 million  $298.1 million
 "Prometheus"  $126.5 million  $276 million
 "The Lorax"  $214 million  $134.8 million

As The Wrap pointed out, these numbers can be deceiving, as this gives the total box-office gross and not the percentage of the revenue which comes solely from 3D.  

According to The Wrap, 3D earnings have been on a slow decline since 2010. However, with most 3D figures accounting for at least 50 percent of a film's earnings during opening weekends, that's a pretty substantial figure. 

Fifty-two percent of "The Avengers" ticket sales during its massive $200+ opening weekend came from 3D. The film went on to become the highest-grossing film of last year with $1.5 billion at the box office worldwide. 

And the first 3D film of the year, "Texas Chainsaw," surprised both critics and those who worked on the film when it earned an unexpected $21.7 million in its opening weekend. 

No, this doesn't mean that all 3D films are faring well at theaters. 

Monsters-IncDisney re-releases have seen a significant decline. After "The Lion King" had a massive box office performance (the film earned $177.6 million worldwide), Disney announced it would release four more films in 3D. None of them have lived up to the Oscar-winning film. Instead, they've all seen a rapid decline in opening weekend grosses and overall box office. 

(Note: To offset the anomaly of "The Lion King" earning a $100 million more than other Disney films, we've used domestic instead of worldwide totals.)

Disney 3D rereleases gross

The same can be said for 3D concert films.  

With the exception of "Michael Jackson's This Is It" after the singer's death, 3D hasn't been a draw for concert films. The latest singer to try and bring a film to the big screen, Katy Perry, saw her film bomb opening weekend. In its defense, the movie fell victim to debuting the same weekend as the "Spider-Man" reboot. 


  Film   Opening Weekend   Worldwide Gross
 "Hannah Montana" (2008)  $31.1 million  $70.6 million
 "Jonas Brothers"     
 "The 3D Concert Experience" (2009)  $12.5 million  $23.2 million
 "Michael Jackson's This Is It" (2009)  $23.2 million  $261.2 million
 "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" (2011)  $29.5 million  $98.4 million
 "Katy Perry: Part of Me" (2012)  $7.1 million  $25.3 million

According to Gomez, studios are picking up on this.  

"Filmmakers and studios are starting to be more conscientious about poorly processed 3D conversions and the use of 3D for frivolous purposes or non-event films," says Gomez. "Negative word of mouth, particularly in social media in the States, has clearly amounted to underperforming movies and a degree of embarrassment for the stakeholders. As a fan I'm hoping this means that more thought, budget and creativity will be put into conversions, and better yet, more native 3D films will be made."

SEE ALSO: Roadmap To The Future

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