Is 3-D Following Up on Its Promise to Save the Movie Biz?

Premium prices for three-dimensional movies were responsible for helping movie theaters avoid a slump this summer, according to newly tabulated box-office stats.
up3dU.S. box-office revenues were up 4 percent this summer, to $4.3 billion from $4.13 billion in 2008. That was spread across a decreased number of total admissions, with 570 million tickets sold for a drop of 1.5 percent. What pushed this year’s revenues over the edge, though, according to the National Association of Theaters Owners, via The Hollywood Reporter tonight, is that some of those tickets were sold at premium prices for 3-D pics like Up and G-Force.
The association is giving 3-D the credit for the bump, even though there were only four 3-D movies this summer (those two plus Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and X Games: The Movie, with some additional 3-D footage in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). Plus, there were only 1,500 to 1,700 functional 3-D screens this summer, and 3-D venues accounted for only about a third of each 3-D film’s showings.
Studio execs like DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg have been cooking up hype for 3-D, though we think it’s wacky to presume that an additional dimension could make film industry finances healthy. Besides, many moviegoers, including myself, felt like 3-D was superfluously used in pictures like Up.
There will be 14 total 3-D titles released to theaters when 2009 is done, The Hollywood Reporter says. Meanwhile, technical improvements to 3-D are making it higher quality and more scalable, and promise to bring it into the home and dissociate it from the encumbrance of special glasses. Even YouTube, that most democratic video platforms, is experimenting with a stereoscopic player.