3D Remains a Gimmick

If the trend of 3D movie releases is any indication, 3D will not be a huge game changer. That’s the assessment of Pali Research’s Rich Greenfield.

“While we did not intend to be the ‘3D Scrooge,’ we are increasingly skeptical that 3D will fundamentally alter the exhibition industry,” Greenfield wrote in his blog at Pali. “In most cases, 3D still appears to be a gimmick to get consumers to a theater to see a particular movie. Unfortunately, similar to 2D movies, most movies are only fair at best--story still matters far more than technology.”

On top of the movies being lousy, people are having to pay, on average, a $3 premium for 3D movies.

“We simply wonder if the 3D premiums are truly sustainable, if the level of content does not improve notably,” he wrote.

Greenfield said Disney’s 3D version of “A Christmas Carol,” release over the weekend, brought in just $30 million at the box office, “well below the levels most expected,” but more than the studio’s previous 3D release, “Bolt,” which did $26 million on opening weekend. Disney’s “GForce,” also offered in 3D, did $32 million during its summer opening weekend.

“While it may be too early to deem ‘Christmas Carol’ a write-down,” as was Disney’s 2002’s “Treasure Planet,” ...we believe the weak Sunday box office is not a good omen, on top of weak reviews and box office that would have been in the low-mid $20 million range if not for the premium pricing of 3D,” Greenfield said. “With yet another senior executive shake-up at Disney’s studio [Mark Zoradi stepped down as president of Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group this week], we would not be surprised to see a write-down that lowers Disney’s fiscal 2009 earnings, but which helps fiscal 2010 growth.”

Greenfield acknowledged that Fox intends to raise the bar for 3D content with next month’s release of “Avatar,” directed by James Cameron.

How 3D movie releases impact the format on TV remains to be seen. So far, most U.S. 3DTV fare has involved special simulcasts of sporting events to properly equipped theaters. ESPN most recently transmitted the USC-Ohio State Sept. 12 game live in 3D to a theater on the University of Southern California campus.

BSkyB successfully transmitted 3D content across its HD infrastructure earlier this year and plans a full-fledged launch for next year. Mexico’s Televisa recently broadcast its first soccer match in 3D.

More on 3D:
October 26, 2009:Soccer Match Broadcast in 3D
Televisa broadcast the first soccer match in 3D over the weekend.

October 21, 2009:SMPTE Fall Conference Focuses on 3D
Dolby Labs, Fox Network, DTS, and RealD will be on hand with 3D input.

October 8, 2009:TVB Tech Alert: 3M Develops 3D for Mobile TV
The auto-stereoscopic 3D film targets cell phones, small video game consoles, and other portable digital devices and requires no glasses.

October 1, 2009:TVB Tech Alert: Sony’s Single Lens 3D Technology
The technology comprises a new optical system that captures left and right images simultaneously, with existing high frame-rate recording technology to realize 240 fps 3D filming.

September 24, 2009:Consumers Care About 3D at Home
About 25 percent of those who are at least somewhat interested in having the ability to view 3D content at home, however, were unwilling to spend more money on a 3D TV.

September 11, 2009:BBC Considers Carrying 2012 Olympics in 3D
“We could, and I believe should, capture some of the games in 3D.”

September 10, 2009:NEP Unveils 3D Super Shooter
Mobile TV production specialist NEP is rolling out its first 3D truck.

September 2, 2009:Sony Announces 3D Home Initiative
Sony announced this week that it plans to introduce a consumer-ready 3D TV set next year, as well as build 3D capability into many of its consumer electronics, encompassing music, movies and video games.

July 30, 2009:3DTV Launch Set for 2010
BSkyB now plans to launch its 3D channel next year.

July 22, 2009:Industry Forging Ahead with 3D Amid Questions
“Some members fear de facto, non-open standards, for first-generation broadcast 3DTV will result from the technology decisions made by first providers.”

April 6, 2009:Live 3DTV Debuts in United Kingdom
BSkyB successfully transmitted live 3DTV across it’s systems in the United Kingdom.

March 9, 2009:More 3DTV Developments
BSkyB continues plowing toward 3DTV, with a goal to offer it by the end of the year .