After a Few Flops, Studios Are Playing Down 3-D


In the upcoming animated flick Megamind, Brad Pitt and Will Ferrell square off in an epic good-versus-evil fight that spoofs the well-worn but still white-hot superhero genre. Babies are saved, Tina Fey is terrorized and stuff blows up. Oh, and by the way, it’s in 3-D.

The suits at DreamWorks Animation, the studio behind the Nov. 5 release, aren’t trying to hide the fact that the movie is in 3-D. They’re just not using it as the core of their marketing strategy, which, at first glance, may seem like an odd move for the studio that’s been one of the most aggressive in using the new technology.

But it turns out 3-D is kind of a dirty word right now, with the bitter memory of some summer duds and their jacked-up ticket prices still lingering in consumers’ minds. Flops like Piranha 3-D and Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore didn’t help 3-D’s cause, nor did Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender, which were shot in traditional 2-D but hastily converted to 3-D at the last minute.

How, then, will distributors position the flood of 3-D product they have queued up for multiplexes that have rushed into digital projection to show them? Very carefully, say industry watchers who noted that everyone from Avatar filmmaker James Cameron and legendary critic Roger Ebert to Joe Movie Fan have grumbled about the quality (or lack thereof) of 3-D movies. The backlash, in short, has begun.

“There’s a lot of negative reaction to 3-D now because consumers saw the studios jumping on the bandwagon and cashing in on premium ticket prices,” said Wayne Miller, president and chief creative officer of Action 3D Productions, which produces commercials, concerts, sports and music videos in 3-D. “But 3-D doesn’t make a bad film good, and consumers caught on.”

It’s no wonder studios have rushed into 3-D movies, which command at least $3 above the regular ticket price. 3-D helped make it a record summer at the box office—the overall tally was $4.35 billion, up 2 percent, even though attendance dropped 3 percent.

Four of the top 10 movies were in 3-D, including this year’s top moneymaker, Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3, which snagged more than $400 million domestically and just crossed $1 billion total worldwide.

Still to come this year are Disney’s Tron: Legacy and Tangled, Paramount’s Jackass 3D and Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, among others.

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