Monday, September 26, 2011

3D Strikes Back!

And they said it was a dying fad... That's what I've been hearing anyway, for about the past month and from what seemed like a whole lot of folks. (CNN, Gizmodo, Slate)   From the dropping of RealD's stock to the finger-pointing at big summer blockbusters not earning as much in 3D as their 2D counterparts. Looking at you Harry Potter. It looks like the re-release of The Lion King (3D) has far exceeded expectations to the tune of  $61,676,000 by its second weekend, spending 2 weeks at the #1 box office spot, even beating out Contagion in only its second week. Not bad for a movie already released 17 years ago.

 When you look at some of the reasons for 3D's naysayers, you see that there was a whole lot of assumptions when we all know what that means about you and me... Lets look at the poor performance of movies where since Avatar with its 70% 3D intake, you have 3D revenues dropping under the 50% mark to their 2D counterparts. I think that this can be explained with a couple of things. First, the extra cost of 3D movie tickets is seen by many moviegoers as a risk, especially when some 3D versions have not been as good, as of late. An extra $4 a ticket adds up to $20 more for a family of 5. That is a pretty significant jump in price. When a movie like The Deathly Hallows Part II, the final act of the final book in the Harry Potter series comes out, I think it's clear that families decide: "Well, 2D worked just fine for the other 7 movies. Why potentially ruin the experience with a risk for the final act?". It's not just the premium that makes people shy away, but the actual risk of the experience being not as good. The difference with Lion King 3D is that here is a movie that I think adults want to experience in a way that is nearly a fresh to them as any child who has never yet seen this movie on the big screen before. I also think that the idea that old school, 2D animation being adapted to the 3rd dimension really peaks peoples' interest. They already know that the movie itself is worth the premium, even if the 3D effect isn't all that great, which turned out to be not the case.

Then you have the sagging 3D HDTV adoption. In its first true roll-out year, 3D HDTVs did really well. Now it seems that the demand is just not there. Why? Well, I believe it to be 2 factors. First you have the usual early adopter clause for everything latest and greatest. This is the person that is always willing to pay a premium for what's new. There is that word again: "Premium". In this case, you still have these manufacturers' R&D expenses being reflected in retail costs. The truth is that 3D is something that can be added to any HDTV set at very little to potentially no added cost. (sans the glasses) 3D in the home is being seen by some as a potential failure even though that is just an assumption. This is not to say that I think 3D will be used on every set, just as color phased out B&W sets. I do think that all sets could be 3D-ready, though. I do agree with the naysayers that 3D needs to be glasses-free before we go to complete saturation. As it is though, I can definitely see 3D used in more homes than 5.1 surround audio exists in, and I don't see people calling surround sound a failure. In fact, both share the same common pitfall, practicality. The second reason I think for slow adoption in the marketplace would be the content, which has been slow to move out, and relies on Blu-ray and not the standard DVD player that almost everybody and their grandbaby owns. The Blu-ray discs themselves have been slow to roll out, in spite of Sony's push for 3D in everything. This is classic 'chicken-and-egg' syndrome where content and electronic equipment get bound to a cyclical behavior of  "we need this first". It will be movies like the Lion King that sell Blu-ray as a means to get 3D for the home. Other content like ESPN Monday Night Football in 3D will help at least pick up the slack, where movie content is falling short.

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