Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

3-D is doomed (yet again)

Another report has detailed static takings for 3-D films. Does it mean anything?

Tue, Apr 16, 2013, 22:13


Make it so. Make it so. Wishful thinking had, to date, done us little good. Time and time again, various reports have emerged telling us that stupid, bumpy, screen-darkening 3-D is set to go the way of Emergo or Illusion-o. Somehow or other, the ghastly medium always manages to survive. It is close to a decade since I sat in Hollywood’s sparkling Kodak Theatre (as it then still was) and huffily endured a 3-D presentation of the ill-starred Chicken Little. “Well, this is never going to catch on,” I muttered to myself. “We didn’t buy in it the 1950s. We didn’t buy it in the 1970s. We’re not going to but it now.” Future developments proved me wrong. Until now!

The latest whisper of hope comes from a report by Fitch Ratings. That body has concluded that 3-D takings in the US and Canada have remained static for the last two years. They further deduce (how, exactly?) that takings of bumpy, spectacled films are set for a slight fall in 2013. This would be the first drop since we were told it was all over in 2009. “Attendance likely benefited from the initial proliferation of 3D films,” the document states. “However, the initial excitement has dwindled, and consumers are focused again on the overall quality of the film and are weighing the cost of a premium ticket versus a base 2D ticket.”

I don’t know. There seems a class of messy logic at work here. I suspect the statement about 2013 may prove to be correct. But last year’s total was swelled by loot from The Avengers, which registered as the third-biggest film of all time. That stupid Hobbit thing didn’t do badly either. It was, in other words, a pretty exceptional year for films in the irritating format (financially, at least).

Here’s the real worry. The latest doom-laden report — as is too often the case with US documents of this type — focusses too closely on “domestic” figures. Out here in Rest of the World we have, for reasons I can’t quite discern, always been disproportionately fond of the 3-D medium. Keep in mind, for example, that the recent re-release of Titanic in that form did nothing in the US, but was a smash in many overseas territories (a massive 83 percent of the takings was down to foreigners like you and me).

Too many of us are still prepared to pay more for a product that — exceptions such as Life of Pi and Hugo noted — is too often inferior to the cheaper version. This has to stop. This probably won’t stop.