Detailed in The Hollywood Reporter this week, attendance of 3D versions of films is dropping due to exceedingly high ticket prices and a lack of interest from the average American family. For example, the percentage of revenue that comes from 3D versions of Pixar films has fallen dramatically over the last two years. When Toy Story 3 was released, the opening weekend box office take was over sixty percent 3D viewings and the 3D revenue from the entire run was responsible for 56 percent of all revenue. Moving ahead in time, 3D revenue from the opening weekend of Cars 2 was 40 percent of the total revenue. Even more recently, 3D viewings during the opening weekend of Brave only accounted for 32 percent of all revenue.
Beyond Pixar, Dreamworks Animation is seeing a similar trend. 3D viewings of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted only accounted for 38 percent of the revenue collected during the opening weekend. Likely one of the main contributing factors, families are losing interest in 3D movies due to rising ticket prices.
At the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, the cost to view Ice Age: Continental Drift in 3D during a Saturday matinee runs $52 for the average family of four. Prices vary across the United States as well. At the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 in New York City, the same viewing is $65. At the AMC Studio 30 in Kansas, the price would be about $44. If a family of four chooses the 2D version of the film instead, they will reduce the total cost by 25 to 40 percent depending on the theater.
According to a 2011 study of theatrical market statistics conducted by the MPAA, box office revenue from 3D movies dropped by $400 million between 2010 and 2011. Despite the number of digital 3D screens in the United States increasing by 50 percent and the number of 3D films released increasing by nearly 75 percent, movies studios took in 18 percent less revenue than 2010. However, domestic revenue during 2012 is at an all time high. This is being supported by attendance of 2D movies such as action blockbusters like The Avengers and The Hunger Games as well as comedies like Ted and 21 Jump Street.
For the moment, it appears that the movie industry is relying on extreme fans of comic book films and action movies to prop up 3D ticket sales in the United States. In addition, studios are having better luck with 3D in markets such as China, Brazil and Russia. The release of the next three Avatar films is also expected to be a boon for 3D technology as 3D revenue from that box office release topped 85 percent of all revenue.
However, the first Avatar sequel won’t be released until 2014 and the draining interest in 3D films at the box office is already having an impact on the sales of 3D televisions. According to a recent study conducted by the NPD, only 14 percent of U.S. consumers consider 3D to be a vital feature that will motivate them to upgrade their existing HDTV in the next six months. Even more recent, DirecTV announced plans to scale back on 3D content development due to a general lack of interest from subscribers.