3-D Starts to Fizzle

Anyone with half a brain that goes to the movies on a regular basis would know this was going to happen at some point.

Consumer rebellion over high 3-D ticket prices plays a role, and the novelty of putting on the funny glasses is wearing off, analysts say. But there is also a deeper problem: 3-D has provided an enormous boost to the strongest films, including “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland,” but has actually undercut middling movies that are trying to milk the format for extra dollars.

“Audiences are very smart,” said Greg Foster, the president of Imax Filmed Entertainment. “When they smell something aspiring to be more than it is, they catch on very quickly.”

Muddying the picture is a contrast between the performance of 3-D movies in North America and overseas. If results are troubling domestically, they are the exact opposite internationally, where the genre is a far newer phenomenon. Indeed, 3-D screenings powered “Stranger Tides” to about $256 million on its first weekend abroad; Disney trumpeted the figure as the biggest international debut of all time.

With results like that at a time when movies make 70 percent of their total box office income outside North America, do tastes at home even matter?

After a disappointing first half of the year, Hollywood is counting on a parade of 3-D films to dig itself out of a hole. From May to September, the typical summer season, studios will unleash 16 movies in the format, more than double the number last year.

The big thing here to remember is that Hollywood isn’t going to let this die anytime soon, but movie consumers are definitely becoming more savvy with which movies they see in 3-D.

Hollywood treats movie technology trends like bad sex. They bust out the occasional unexpected move that seems exciting and titillating at first, but then after awhile you realize that you’ve been getting facialed for six-months and all the fun wears off and it’s like no mas por favor.  Of course, they always have another move in their bag of tricks waiting to milk until consumers tire of it.

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