‘Green Lantern’: No Panacea to 3DTV’s Future?20 Jun, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Subpar 3D box office for superhero flick portends ongoing challenge for nascent 3D home entertainment market
The relatively soft opening box office weekend for Green Lantern from Warner Bros. upped the rhetoric among observers who believe interest in 3D movies are on the decline among average moviegoers.
With nearly $53 million in domestic ticket sales, the superhero movie starring Ryan Reynolds generated 45% of its revenue from 3D — the third consecutive 3D tentpole movie to fall below 50% in its opening weekend. The others included DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2 (45% in 3D) and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (37%).
By comparison, Thor (50%), Shrek Forever After (54%) and How to Train Your Dragon (57%) performed much better in 3D on their opening weekends. Year-to-date 3D leader Tron: Legacy generated 70% of its opening box office in the format.
Analyst Richard Greenfield with BTIG Research in New York said the results underscore ongoing weakness in the 3D business model. Greenfield said the curiosity factor of 3D has worn off, resulting in a consumer less likely to spend a 45% premium on 3D ticket, unless the film warrants it.
He cited Warner’s release of Lantern in fewer 3D screens so as to not negatively impact 2D ticket sales, and better reflect 3D “screen count” with attendance.
“There simply is not enough demand domestically for most movies in 3D to have them occupy 4,000-plus 3D screens,” Greenfield wrote in a June 20 post.
The analyst also said RealD, the leading 3D technology driver of 3D projection in theaters, is in denial regarding the format’s declining fortunes.
Ralph Schackart, analyst with William Blair & Co. in Chicago, and proponent of 3D and RealD, said 3D releases through March 2012, which include Cars 2 (Disney) and the first-ever 3D release for the “Transformer” franchise (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), should bolster the format at the box office — a reality Greenfield does not dispute.
Schackart estimates $1.28 billion will be earned at the domestic and international 3D box office by the first quarter of 2012. To date, $1.58 billion has been earned, or 123.2% of the total expected, with international tracking ahead of domestic receipts, according to the analyst.
Regardless, dumping on 3D movies has reached the consumer press, according to Greenfield, who championed the practice.
He pointed out a column in the latest (June 24) issue of Entertainment Weekly from Mark Harris titled, “Honk If You Are Sick of 3D!”
“The decreasing demand for 3D movies in the U.S. creates two warning flags for us: 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 wrote.