Don’t look now, but there’s another article heralding the death of 3D making the rounds on the Internet.
The latest piece of doom and gloom about the gimmicky technique comes from Time’s website and was inspired by Nintendo President Satoru Iwata’s proclamation that 3D is “perhaps slightly on the wane again.”
It’s a pretty big deal for Iwata to acknowledge this – particularly as the company preps to launch a new iteration of its Nintendo 3DS handheld here in America next month. That “3D” in the 3DS stands for what was once the system’s much-hyped selling point – a technology that allowed players to experience games in three dimensions, without those silly glasses.
Unfortunately, Iwata and Nintendo have come to realize that the 3D effect isn’t something that keeps people interested in the long term – a fact that Hollywood and other electronic companies are also learning firsthand.
The Time article points out that while Hollywood released 19 more 3D features in 2011 than it did in 2010, 3D box office was down 18% for the year – which translates to a decrease of roughly $400 million. 2012 isn’t looking a whole lot better – Disney Pixar’s Brave opened with just 32% of its take coming from 3D screenings. Even The Avengers, which saw almost half of its money come from showings in the format, can’t compete with the magical days of 2009 – when Avatar drew 83% of its money from the pricier showings.
Televisions boasting 3D technology have fared no better. While the sets were once heralded as the wave of the future for home viewing, companies like Samsung have since shifted focus to “smart TVs.” Meanwhile, only 14% of consumers who plan to buy a television in the next six months cite 3D as a “must-have feature” according to NPD research.
Perhaps Christopher Nolan said it best when recently asked why he doesn't release his movies in 3D: "The question of 3D is a very straightforward one,” Nolan said in a recent interview. “I never meet anybody who actually likes the format, and it’s always a source of great concern to me when you’re charging a higher price for something that nobody seems to really say they have any great love for.
There are many theories as to why 3D has fallen out of favor – from the potential eyestrain, to not finding the glasses comfortable, to the effect causing headaches for some viewers, to the price. We suspect all are valid, but the cost seems to be the one that comes up most often when we talk to people. There probably is a sustainable market for 3D features – but Hollywood, in its rush to make money, has overestimated it. Rather than utilize 3D only in movies that can benefit from the effect, studios instead slapped it on every big project they could find. Add in the cruddy looking visuals of post-converted 3D films and is it really hard to understand why audiences are tired of the format?
We suspect this current 3D renaissance still has a few more years before it runs its course – but if current trends are to be believed, 3D is certainly on a downward spiral. It may not ever go away completely, but if ticket sales continue to drop, expect a future where 3D features are the exception and not the rule.