Has 3D hit a wall in the entertainment industry? IMAX seems to think so. The gigantic format requires screens that reach up to 60 feet tall and sells tickets for more than $15 a pop, but audiences are buying according to a recent study USA Today shared. Only 325 of the nation's 9,000 theaters feature IMAX capability, but the theatrical lineup for 2012 is clearly focused on filling those screens with some of this year's biggest blockbusters. The Hunger Games (which opens this Friday), Wrath of the Titans, Titanic, and The Avengers will appear in IMAX theaters. If the numbers hold up — the first six weeks of the year, IMAX ticket sales reached $55 million, a 45% increase over the same time in 2011 — the large screen format may completely kick 3D's in the coming weeks and months.
Last year was an early predictor of IMAX's popularity since nine of the top 10 grossing films included IMAX presentations. Need further proof that the format does well, despite box office disappointments? Disney's John Carter (which cost $250 million to make) opened to $30.2 million on 3,749 screens last weekend, but on 289 IMAX screens Carter raked in $5 million (accounting for 17% of the profits).
While IMAX provides a fully immersive theatrical experience, audiences seem to categorize 3D as more of a gimmick, trend, or experimental phase. (The same thing happened in the 1950s.) "A few years ago people went to 3D films just to see what it was like," research firm Enders Analysis shared. Last year, theaters saw 47 3D films hit their screens, but according to Enders' study, box office earnings/ticket sales dropped. Even much-loved vehicles that had built-in audiences like The Lion King didn't see impressive earnings during their 3D re-releases. (You can check out some numbers from the study over here.) Despite this, tent poles like The Hobbit, Prometheus, Spider-Man, and others will be offering 3D — often simultaneously with IMAX.
Is it overkill considering the facts? Which experience is the one people are flocking to theaters for: IMAX or 3D? Many feel that 3D is neither a bonus nor a hindrance, but that the stories didn't warrant the bells and whistles Hollywood is lavishing their pictures with.
Let us know how you ultimately feel about IMAX versus 3D by voting and leaving a comment below.