If you actually did see The Wolverine over the weekend, chances are you didn't see it in 3D. The superhero movie's disappointing box office take was comprised primarily of money from 2D screenings, and while that's the norm, this time it was a much larger majority for the cheaper ticket price. With only about 30% of its opening gross coming from 3D shows, The Wolverine is a "new low point" for action movies in the format, according to The Wrap. Even worse, though, are 3D option ticket sales for Turbo, which at only 25% are "the format's worst showing yet."
Clearly moviegoers are tired of 3D, whether because of the higher price or the lack of visuals deemed worth that price. And the downturn has been confirmed by analyst Eric Wold in a recent report to investors. The format is a standard option now and so is no longer a special treat. Meanwhile, Hollywood doesn't appear to be making any effort to improve the technology, which consistently receives complaints about how it darkens the picture, or to present the public with legitimate cinematic reasoning -- rather than financial reasoning to their benefit -- for the 3D version of any film.
When people are given a choice, the more expensive option has to have relative appeal. Just as distributors need to communicate why their films are worth seeing on the big screen over waiting for DVD, they need to do the same for why their films deserve, if not require, the extra dimension. It's rare that we experience something that's necessarily seen in 3D, a la Avatar, Hugo or Cave of Forgotten Dreams. And with regular 3D rereleases such as Top Gun, Jurassic Park and The Wizard of Oz, it continues to be sold as a curious gimmick to be adorned to movies that never needed it in the first place.
This is the second report from Wold and the Wrap about this summer's weak 3D business. Last month the site revealed that World War Z had taken in a record low percentage from 3D screenings (34%) and that Monsters University was the lowest ever for an animated feature (31%). We can now predict that we'll hear again from them about next month's Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and Planes.
We can compare this summer's terrible decrease in 3D revenue to last year's data (via MPAA), which already showed signs of what was to become. While 2D box office was on an upswing last year, 3D box office had gone down from 18% in 2011 to 17% -- though this was partly explained by a fewer number of 3D releases. In 2010, though, 3D screenings accounted for 21% of the year's box office.
According to the Wrap, 3D is still going strong in major foreign markets, particularly in Russia and China. So don't expect the format to go away anytime soon. What this could mean, however, is that fewer movies will be shot with 3D cameras if it's more expensive to do so, because the international audiences will eat up the converted releases just fine and here in the States we'll just see audiences choosing the original version. Considering none of this summer's live-action tentpoles were filmed in 3D anyway, it might not change anything.