3D movies are in trouble – here’s more proof

More bad news for theatrical 3D movies? More bad news for theatrical 3D movies.

Following an underwhelming past two months which have consistently demonstrated that interest in 3D movies may not be as high as theater owners and movie studios would like, the 3D version of Warner Bros.’ adaptation of DC Comic’s “Green Lantern” debuted to an anemic 36% attendance rate.

3D movies are in trouble - here's more proof

Home Media Magazine reported that Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG Research who has previously taken 3D proponents to task for overshooting expectations, pointed out that a lack of demand for 3D movies means they shouldn’t “occupy 4,000-plus 3D screens.”

“Green Lantern,” which opened to a weekend tally of $53 million, saw strong promotional efforts centered around its 3D version – including a 3D trailer offered freely to Nintendo 3DS eShop customers. Greenfield at least doesn’t believe those efforts are paying off, nor will they.

“The decreasing demand for 3D movies in the U.S. creates two warning flags for us,” he wrote. “One related to what will happen to the demand for 3D movies overseas over the next 24 months (as the so-called ‘curiosity factor’ wears off) and two, what is the real consumer interest level for in-home 3DTV until you do not need to wear glasses?”

Greenfield’s first point is well-noted. Entertainment Weekly confirmed that “3D fatigue” is still strictly a domestic phenomenon; global performance paints a better picture for 3D. His second, the adoption of 3D TVs in homes, is a topic analysts have already spent considerable time researching. Some have said that as networks begin to offer 3D programming, consumers will jump aboard. Others have surmised that cheaper passive-3D technology could help the format find success, though that split in price and power could put off potential buyers; if there is no singular, clear-cut victor, the thinking goes, why invest in a fancy new TV?

When it comes to the hope of a glasses-free 3D solution (the industry’s white whale), it’s fair to wonder if even that would help the format catch on.

In 2010, film critic Roger Ebert penned an impassioned screed against 3D for Newsweek, memorably calling it “a waste of a perfectly good dimension.” Others eventually came to a similar conclusion, though some filmmakers still prefer the format – like Michael Bay. Some posit the 3D version of his upcoming “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” could “revive” the floundering format. A safe bet, perhaps – even though some 3D films have under-performed, others have done quite well.

With the big summer movie season officially underway, it will be interesting to see how it all pans out. However, early reports suggest at least one more summer blockbuster will disappoint in 3D: early ticket sales for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II” are showing a clear consumer preference towards 2D.