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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Some 3D Numbers

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.)

5 Responses to “Some 3D Numbers”

  1. John says:

    Dave- your line, “They made the mistake of letting domestic box office numbers become too accessible to control.” bothers me. I don’t need to know how much money you make (and conversely am ashamed to admit how much I take home) but when it comes to the studios, I think there NEEDS to be transparency.

    If you were an actor, a director or a writer who is entitled to a gross percentage, those numbers should be made public to them. Since the studios themselves are almost all publicly traded companies, their stockholders should have the ability to see what those stats are.

    Should we all have immediate access? No. But having information like that hidden is what makes for studios to claim that FORREST GUMP is still in the red and that Quincy, a hit television shows that ran for 8 years had accrued debts of tens on millions of dollars.

  2. jesse says:

    I would point out, though, that Pirates and Thor are both a bit into their runs at this point. This is only anecdotal, but buying X-Men tickets last night for tonight’s showing, I noticed that a multiplex that would’ve, on its first weekend, had Pirates 4 on two 3-D screens and one 2-D screen, now had it split: one IMAX 3-D screen, one regular 2-D screen. And Thor, which also would’ve been on two 3-D screens and one 2-D on its first weekend, was down to one 2-D. That’s the major difference I’m seeing from last summer: last summer, pretty much only Regal was regularly running a 2-D engagement of a movie available in 3-D, and that 2-D screen would be the first to get cut as it lost screens during its run. Now, most AMCs are running at least one 2-D screen on opening weekend if not two, and when it gets time to cut screens, the extra 3-Ds go faster. Which is great for me; more choice.

    And I doubt this is an issue of 3-D availability in NYC; right now, at the Kips Bay multiplex I visited last night, there are basically two screens playing 3-D (the IMAX for Pirates, and a 3-D engagement of Kung Fu Panda), and I know they have capacity for more. I’m not sure how it works, if these NYC multiplexes could actually play 3-D on all 10, 15, however many screens if they wanted. But they could definitely play more than two screens’ worth, because they have in the past.

    It doesn’t make the point less valid — I just wanted to point out that opening weekend, that 50-50 split may not be so even.

  3. David Poland says:

    John…I agree with you, but the studios are the bad guys in that equation. They want NO transparency.

    It goes well beyond magical bookkeeping. That’s why, even 20+ years ago, net points were called “monkey points” by Eddie Murphy.

    The bigger these companies get, the more smushed the actual numbers get into bigger profiles. The only time we hear about writedowns in when they are mentioned in analysts calls to explain bad results. And we never hear about profitability. The details of the DVD revenues are not available and are broadly guessed at by analysts. And just wait until rights are split up over a dozen delivery systems.

    For Disney, they get two weeks of free reruns via internet from their AFTRA deals. So they are taking those and pushing the shows to Netflix, for a price, after that. And the shows will expand their ancillary lives after that, though I am not clear on whether actors and others will get paid for multiple streaming channels or just “for streaming.” Either way, it’s a rip-off. But that was negotiated.

  4. New guy says:

    Noticed something remarkable today: one year ago, the town was plastered with posters reading Clash of the Titans in 3D and, in small print, “also playing in 2D.” Now: Green Lantern, small print “3D in select theaters.” Telling, right?

  5. filmguy100000 says:

    Ok so X-men just did worse than Thor opening night. Were X-men in 3D it might have beat it as it should have based on expectations and character awareness with public. 3Ds doing fine, if done well, and on the right movie people want to see it on.

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