It’s no secret that Hollywood has bought into 3D in a big way after the massive success of Avatar, but ever since James Cameron’s movie took the world by storm in late 2009, it appears that the medium has been offering diminishing returns for studios. Last year we saw a handful of movies become box office behemoths thanks to inflated 3D ticket prices such as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, but over time most 3D blockbusters have been experiencing a significant drop in the number of 3D tickets being sold. The release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in North America this past weekend marked one of the lowest percentages of 3D ticket sales thus far, with just 38% of the film’s $90 million opening coming from from non-IMAX 3D screens. Some industry analysts feel that audiences are shying away from the higher ticket prices, but is this really a solid indicator of what’s to come, or is it just a minor blip as 3D continues to take over the world?
It stands to reason that the newest Pirates of the Caribbean film should have easily surpassed the opening weekend gross of its predecessors, so the fact that it made about $25 million less than the previous installment in the U.S. is potentially cause for concern. According to Richard Greenfield of Wall Street’s BTIG, this is proof that audiences are “increasingly rejecting 3D movies” and choosing 2D instead when given the option. In his opinion, the movie would have actually made more money if they had shown it on more 2D screens. The high ticket prices and the annoyance of wearing glasses seem to be particularly problematic for families.
While I’m sure many people would love to believe that 3D is on its way out, I don’t think it’s entirely true. First of all, the movie still made $260 million overseas, where 3D screenings accounted for 66% of the total. Secondly, by Disney’s own admission they didn’t really push the 3D aspect of the movie in the marketing. Lastly, I think the novelty is simply wearing off and audiences are becoming a little more picky about what they will spend the extra money on. If a movie is billed as a visual extravaganza that was shot in 3D and takes full advantage of the format, then they will splurge. Did you choose to see Pirates 4 in 2D or 3D? Do you think 3D turnout will continue to drop, or is it totally dependent on the film?