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Are 3D Movies a Box Office Revenue Hit?

By (view all posts by Allegra.Ringo)
at 8:57AM Thursday March 17, 2011
under Newsworthy

Lucasfilm has announced that they will release Star Wars: Episode I in 3D in February of 2012. If the film's 3D run is successful, the other five Star Wars films will also be released in 3D--one per year beginning in 2013.
Naturally, fans are divided on whether 3D releases will be a good thing for the series from an artistic standpoint. Lucasfilm maintains that Star Wars is "perfectly suited" for 3D. That's no big surprise, considering that 3D films gross on average four times more than their 2D counterparts. That statistic, coupled with Hollywood's love of all media with an already established audience (remakes, sequels, adaptations), makes the Star Wars 3D run a pretty safe bet, financially speaking.

Here are the numbers behind five other movies that have been released in both 2D and 3D.
  1. Avatar

    James Cameron's 2009 film Avatar set enough box office records to warrant a dedicated Wikipedia article. Chief among these fiscal achievements is being the highest-grossing film of all time. On opening weekend alone, Avatar grossed $26,800 for every theater that showed it in 3D, compared to $15,800 for every theater that showed it in 2D. Overall, the film grossed over $2 billion with 3D sales accounting for nearly 81% of that revenue.

  2. Alice in Wonderland

    Tim Burton's 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland grossed over $1 billion worldwide. 3D ticket sales made up approximately two-thirds of that number. 28 days after its release, 3D sales had already accounted for about $60 million of the film's $300 million box office gross.

  3. Monsters vs. Aliens

    In March of 2009, Monsters vs. Aliens set the record for highest grossing weekend opening for a 3D movie. The film ultimately grossed $383,466,166 worldwide. 3D ticket sales made up about 43% of that number.

  4. My Bloody Valentine 3-D

    A remake of a1981 Canadian horror film, My Bloody Valentine 3D pulled in over $1 million worldwide. The 2009 film's revenue from 3D screenings was almost five times as much as its revenue from 2D showings. As noted in the article above, films with the word "3-D" in the title tend to make a much higher percentage of their revenue from 3D screenings than films whose titles don't include "3D."

  5. How to Train Your Dragon

    Worldwide, How to Train Your Dragon grossed almost $500 million at the box office and made 3.75 times more revenue in 3D sales than it did in 2D sales. Now we just have to wait for the inevitably massive box office numbers behind How to Train Your Dragon 2, slated for release in 2014.

What's next for 3-D? Most recently, Disney's Mars Needs Moms became a major box office flop. The film earned just $6.9 million in North America over the weekend, and "tens of millions more in losses" are expected. As the article above notes, some film executives are taking this development as a sign that consumers are tired of paying hefty ticket prices for 3D--especially for their children. Seeing as child admission to 3-D films runs about $13 in Los Angeles and New York, I'm surprised people have been willing to pay it for this long.

What do you think of the 3D trend? Do you think it will stick around much longer?