Gulliver’s Travels is the beginning of the end of live-action studio 3D, with the exceptions of much more selective titles moving forward…
When you start breaking down 2011 in 3D, it gets a little more interesting. More than 30 titles in 3D are now on the schedule.
Jan/Feb seems like a big danger zone. Sony is more hopeful about The Green Hornet, though so far, the campaign is not clicking outside of the geekiest of us all. The Bieber concert film is a question mark… more Miley or more Jonas? And Summit returns to Cage as Franchise, his second film in 6 weeks. Does anyone need to see a car film in 3D? We’ll see.
The Green Hornet – Sony – 1/14/11
Sanctum – Universal – 2/4/11
Gnomeo and Juliet – Miramax – 2/11/11
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – Paramount – 2/11/11
Drive Angry – Summit – 2/25/11
The March-Summer offers 10 premium 3D titles and one Screen Gems floater. Disney has the next Zemeckis-style animated film, followed a month later by Fox’s attempt to replicate the Ice Age franchise with Rio. Mars Needs Moms has the tougher road.
Summer is when things get interesting. Pixar and DWA has near-locks with the animated Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2. You also have two franchises that will do huge business with or without 3D, Pirates and Potter. How much will 3D add to the gross? It will be interesting to see… and almost impossible to judge clearly. If, for instance, Pirates does $350m domestic… is that seen as $70m of found 3D money and the film would have been the weakest Pirates without it… or is this a reboot that should be happy to have that… or did 3D prices inhibit the film from another 10 million people coming to the movie theater? Alternately, it could be the biggest of the series… but is that 3D or Depp or the overall quality of the film or… what? No one can know for sure. But whatever the number, watch the theories fly.
Then… 3 new superhero franchises; Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America. The first question is whether the summer will be kind to three new second-tier superhero franchises… not to mention the non-3D X-Men, Apes, and Cowboys & Aliens entries, which all lean heavily on that area of genre. Can any of the three 3D entries do any better than the two Hulk films did domestically… which is about $135 million? Will 3D make that number $160m? Is that enough? Is 3D a real issue for these films?
That leaves Smurfs 3D, which is a kids movie, but is also a reboot. Will it be a Chipmunks or a Yogi? And how will 3D play into that?
The truly fascinating choice would be for Warners to make Potter 7B as accessible in 2D as in 3D and to see how the numbers worked. Would people choose to go more and pay less?
Getting into August and the fall months, 3D becomes a big blur again. Summit’s 2nd and 3rd 3D releases arrive with The Darkest Hour and Paul W.S. Anderson’s version of The Three Musketeers. Hmmm…
Dimension goes back to the well with Spy Kids 4, the second in the series in 3D. The first one was upfront on the 3D resurgence and did quite well. WB also has a kids film, the first chance to see Morgan Freeman in 3D with Dolphin Tale, a variation of Free Willy.
But the parade of 3D horror/thrillers is another question mark. Is it like the animation world, a core audience plus the 3D bump or will this group discern? Fright Night, Final Destination 5 (aka FD5: Suckers!), another Pirahna movie, a Shark thriller from Relativity,
The holiday season brings us back to an overload of family product in 3D. Three “straight animated” films from DWA (Shrek spin-off Puss In Boots), WB sequel Happy Feet 2, and Sony Animation’s Arthur Christmas all in three weeks of November.
Then back-to-back-to-back, you have Scorsese’s first 3D film, a family thriller (Hugo Cabaret), the hybrid animation Chipmunks 3, and Spielberg’s first entry into the digital realm with a hybrid of animation techniques (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn). The two films from the auteurs sound like they have a similar tone. Add into the complicated mix that Spielberg’s War Horse, a live-action family drama with awards aspirations, will also open in December.
Looking at it all, I would guess that the craze inside the studios is going to end this year. WB already dumped out of 2 big films (Potter/Sucker Punch) and I suspect we’ll see more of that. I also imagine that we’ll see fewer titles that are not “event films” trying to pad their pockets with the 3D bump.
But the problem remains… 3D is a tool, not an answer. The problem that I expect next December, for instance, will be a parade of high quality films of a similar tone all piled up in on month. Same with the load of animation in November. And whichever films pay the price – and some films will – it won’t be 3D’s fault, but rather, overloading the marketplace. The franchises are franchises and the product that isn’t franchise will need to be sold smartly and heavily… just as in a world without any 3D at all.