Is 3D cinema losing its appeal?

submit to reddit Feb 16, 2012 7 Comments by

Is 3D cinema losing its appeal?
by Eva Dudek, Global Marketing Project Manager, Polaroid Eyewear

A recent study by global industry analysts, Rentrack EDI, would suggest that in the UK 3D cinema is indeed losing its appeal, with a little over a fifth of box office sales for 3D films in 2011, compared to 27.5% in 2010. However, over in Canada, Cineplex Entertainment has just announced that it is adding 100 RealD 3D systems across its cinemas, making 40% of its circuit 3D capable. The cinema chain claims that 3D movies are still very popular with its audiences, so is it something to do with the geography or should we be reading something else into the figures?

One thing to consider is that a number of high profile films were released without 3D versions, such as The Kings Speech and Bridesmaids. People flocked to see them, but they didn’t have the option of watching in 3D. However, the number of 3D releases is steadily rising. 25 3D films were released in 2010, with 39 released in 2011. In 2012, we’re set to have more again and some high profile films are being released in 3D, which is likely to draw the crowds, including The Hobbit, Avatar 2, the first of which did get a lot of people watching in 3D last year. With some great content on its way, perhaps 2012 will be the year for 3D cinema to have a comeback.

3DTV sales could also have a positive effect on 3D cinema. Cinema is not just about the technology, it is also the experience, so if someone has a system at home it doesn’t automatically mean they will stop going to the cinema. What it does mean however is that the cinema needs to match up to that experience, so if you can watch 3D at home, you’ll expect that at the cinema too. 3DTV sales have been a lot slower than expected, with consumers until now not being prepared to pay the premium for it. That said, the demand is there. Take the new 3D Experience channel launched by Sony, for example. Within less than six months, it already had 10 million viewers. The content (or lack of it) is one of the biggest factors still. Until there is a wide range of readily available 3D content, consumers simply won’t be willing to stump up the extra cash needed for a 3DTV. So maybe the high profile releases this year coming to 3D blu-ray will be enough to drive some more sales for 3DTV.

Despite the lack of content, Futuresource Consulting believes that within three years, close to half of all UK households will own a 3DTV set. The company also expects the sales in the US to reach 4% in the US, an installed base of over 4.5 million and it is expected that by 2015 47% of US households will own a 3DTV.

At Polaroid, we expect to see a lot more passive 3DTV sets coming to the market. The active sets were quicker to market, as the initial production process is much quicker, but the technology in the glasses makes them bulky, uncomfortable and perhaps more importantly, expensive. Passive sets are much more cost-effective and manufacturers can bundle more glasses with them. The other important difference is that the glasses can be used on any circular polarized passive source, so your friend’s TV or your local cinema, if it’s got a passive system. If people have a pair of stylish passive 3D glasses at home, they will be more inclined to watch the 3D films and get to wear those glasses and forego the £1 charge for the cinema’s glasses.

I think far from losing its hype, 3D cinema is still going strong and is likely to grow further in the coming years, driven by a combination of high profile films being released in 3D, an increase in 3DTV sales, and big budget advertising campaigns from CE manufacturers, broadcasters, and studios.