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3D Movies - Savior of Movie Theaters?

by May 21, 2008
Yep, glasses still required...

Yep, glasses still required...

Lately, we're seeing more and more about 3D movies being released. Many directors (most notably James Cameron who directed such greats as Aliens, The Terminator and definitely did NOT direct anything about any boat sinking because that would just be wrong) and studios (Pixar for instance) are pushing for their movies to be in 3D. But is this really the savior of the multiplex and more importantly, does it need saving?

In 2007, movie theater attendance was essentially flat (though revenue was up due to higher ticket prices). The previous two years saw a decline in both revenues and attendance indicating that the public is perhaps not as interested in pulling themselves away from their big screen high definition TVs and souped-up surround sound systems to visit a sticky-floor theater full of people just looking to annoy those around them. Now that Ethanol is all the rage and corn prices are skyrocketing (not to mention fuel and paper prices) there is a predicted one to two dollar increase (or more) in ticket prices.

Currently, only about 1000 screens in the country are equipped with 3D technology. In order to provide a 3D experience it costs tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade the theater. This typically results in increased ticket prices. Regal recently announced that it would be upgrading 1500 of their screens to 3D starting "soon". The process, apparently, will be completed over the next 2 years and cost around $25,000 per screen (which is actually extremely cheap). Cameron hopes for 5000 screens for the release of his 3D movie Avatar though it is doesn't look good that the benchmark will be hit.

Movie theaters are finding that they can charge a premium for 3D tickets averaging around $3 more than regular tickets - though the Hannah Montana tickets sold well at $15. At some theaters this was a $5+ premium. Of course, not every movie will have the draw of Miley Cyrus. Some movie theaters currently are admitting that tickets (regular ones) would cost $20 if candy and popcorn didn't offset the price. With rising costs, the additional cost of upgrading the theaters to 3D, and other considerations, we might be seeing that price point for a 3D ticket anyhow.

But 3D isn't content to say in the theaters. Currently, a number of TV manufacturers (including Samsung) have TVs on the market with 3D capability. Currently this is only of much use with a computer source, though it could conceivably be used in other ways. Computer games (such as the one based on Cameron's Avatar movie) are also sporting 3D graphics and reportedly have a demo up and running on the Xbox 360. It is unknown at this time if you'll need a special display to take advantage of the 3D graphics.

But the real question is whether or not the declining ticket prices can be helped or hurt by the switch to 3D. Obviously, the trend is currently pointing towards people eschewing the traditional theater and either waiting for the DVD or perhaps catching it On-Demand when available. What is clear is that "business as usual" is not going to work anymore. Theaters will need to do something to get people excited about going back to the theaters. While some might argue all it would take is a "no talking, no kicking the back of my seat, no cell phone" rule, others are looking for additional thrills. When you can get a big screen and great sound for the same money you'd spend in going to the theater for a year (especially if you are loath to sneak in snacks/popcorn), it's hard to justify increasing cost and decreasing comfort/enjoyment.

About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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