Tech – 3D TV? You Sure About That?

There’s no question that eventually, all TV sets will have 3D capabilities.

The question is, however, how often will people use them?

Yes, “Avatar” is a hit, but so what? That’s ONE movie. Hollywood is putting out another twenty 3D movies, clearly thinking there’s cash there, but as I’ve noted before, I’m not so sure. “A Christmas Carol” was based on a timeless story with big actors targeted for a holiday release with Disney’s marketing muscle behind it, and it’s barely staggered to $255 million worldwide on a $200 million budget. “Monsters Vs. Aliens” barely made a profit in theaters, pulling in $385 million against a $175 million budget.

To be blunt, the more you look at 3D releases historically, the more it becomes clear that “Avatar” is a blip. 3D will only work for some movies and not for others, and it’s not going to magically push up grosses if there’s no interest in the film. 3D couldn’t save “G-Force”, “Chicken Little”, “Meet the Robinsons”, etc. In fact, the movies that 3D HAVE benefitted the most are…cheap horror movies aimed at teenagers, like “My Bloody Valentine” and “The Final Destination.” But those didn’t perform unusually well outside of their genre. Subtract the 3D and the performance is pretty consistent for a well-marketed slasher flick.

The thing is, and I’m pretty sure of this, people like 3D occasionally, but not all the time. It’s easy to forget amid “Avatar”‘s success that we’ve been on an epic box office run. “The Blind Side” has made $218 million. “New Moon” will probably crack $300 million. “Sherlock Holmes” will crack $200 million with ease. “The Squeakquel” (ugh) has grossed $175 million and will probably crack $200 million itself. Hell, even a low-budget movie released in the first non-holiday weekend in January, “Daybreakers”, just pulled in $15 million. “Daybreakers” could do as well as “My Bloody Valentine” depending on word-of-mouth.

The main reason I’m skeptical everything will be just like Jeffrey Katzenberg’s 3D utopia comes down to one thing: the glasses. While I’m fairly sure people will be willing to put the glasses on occasionally, they’re not going to do it for sitcoms. Increasingly I think there will be a split between 3D and 2D content, which is as it should be: they’re entirely different mediums, something which also seems to have been lost amid the hype. But I’m not sure that 3D will be the financial savior everyone who isn’t Jeffrey Katzenberg seems to think. Instead I think it’ll ultimately be nothing more than what 3D’s always been, a brief respite for Hollywood to stop at to avoid the question of quality.


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