I have never been a fan of studio-released stats. They made the mistake of letting domestic box office numbers become too accessible to control. They aren’t making that mistake anymore. Not in DVD/Blu-ray and not in 3D.
Last week, I wrote about a stat that Len Klady was given by Disney: “66% of Pirates 4 screens were 3D screens and Disney told him that just 48% of the box office gross came from those screens.”
This weekend, it was, from Len, “Roughly 66% of its playdates were stereoscopic but only 45% of its gross came from those screens.”
The problem with this stat is that “screens” last week and “playdates” this week were actually venues… meaning that there were multiplexes involved and those were not being accounted for in this overall stat.
What I found today was that Pirates 4 was screened 245 times today in Los Angeles*… and only 48% of those screenings, including IMAX, were in 3D.
In Manhattan, the were 143 Pirates screenings today… and only 53% of those screenings were in 3D.
How about Kung-Fu Panda 2… 402 screenings today in the two coastal metropolises… 51% in 3D.
Thor? Shown 213 times today… 53% in 3D.
Of course, if the screening split is 50/50 and the 3D bump is 30% of the cost of a ticket, logically, 57% of the total gross should be coming in from 3D screenings… perhaps a little more, as IMAX prices are higher. That’s not happening on Pirates.
Internationally, based on the Disney numbers, Pirates would have to be performing in the 73%-plus range on 3D screens, at least 25% better than in the US. I have been told by other studio execs that this percentage is completely believable based on prior experience.
So what does this mean?
For one thing, the 3D test is a lot closer to being a 50/50 split of viewing opportunities in the US than the quotes of 3D penetration in the high 60s suggest. The studios want to sell 3D tickets, so I suppose that’s why they don’t want to present 3D as an equal alternative. They clearly get that the price differential can be problematic. To convince people to pay the 3D bump, those people need to be convinced that they NEED to see films in 3D.
And that illusion seems to be over already.
As I have written before, the rest of the world seems to follow US trends in moviegoing a year or so later. This is one reason that so many of the terrible first and second sequels do such more business overseas than here while the first films of franchises often perform less well overseas. They don’t get the same media saturation, but they do get the wave of post-theatrical enthusiasm. We may be burnt out on something and less forgiving when the film (or star) comes around again. And of course, there are stars who are just much bigger overseas than here… and vice versa.
So when is the 3D panic really likely to hit? When things start getting slow overseas. I look for a positive bump from Tintin and Hugo Caberet this winter… but next spring in the rest of the world could see a slide of 3D very similar to the one we have seen here.
By 2013, we will probably start seeing 3D as the add-on it should be… used only when the case for its need is strong enough to convince the public.
The question is how low the return on 3D will have to get for the average release before 3D is seen as damaging? And for all the shouting, the answer remains, “awfully low.”
(*Los Angeles = 15 mile radius from Framer’s Market with Pasadena as a northern border and LAX to the south.)