Is 3D in trouble… again?

With the disappointing box office results for the latest Pirates of the Caribbean and Kung Fu Panda installments, reports that 3D is in trouble have flooded a number of industry publications.

”Pirates of the Caribbean’s’ Low 3D Numbers in U.S. Could Be Wake-Up Call to Hollywood” read one Hollywood Reporter headline, with the story adding, “This summer will put 3D to the test…” 

Variety also reported Pirates had the lowest 3D opening since Avatar brought the technology back strong in late 2009.


Jeffrey Katzenberg, who pushed 3D as the alleged salvation of the industry in the first place, told Hollywood Reporter that it’s “right smack in the terrible twos,” and that it’s “really heartbreaking to see what has been the single greatest opportunity that has happened to the film business in over a decade being harmed.”


Katzenberg said a year and a half ago “there was genuine excitement, enthusiasm and reward for the first group of 3D films that actually delivered a quality experience.” 

Of course, converting a terrible movie to 3D isn’t going to make it any better, something audiences are wary of with movies like Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender being converted to 3D, and both Pirates and Panda already felt played out, 3D or not. (Variety reported that according to the BO experts, Pirates probably wouldn’t have done better if it was completely released in 2D.)

Katzenberg also tap danced around the fact that 3D movie prices are very expensive in today’s economy.

“Quite frankly, there’s no industry in the world that doesn’t attempt to move the customer to a premium experience,” he told the Reporter. “I don’t care whether you make shoes or wine or iced tea or cars, everybody tries to create multiple price points. So why shouldn’t we be in the same business of offering our customer a premium experience at a premium price – as long as we deliver them a premium value?” 

And even though DreamWorks is part of the problem with Kung Fu Panda 2, Katzenberg also insists, “We are not the problem,” claiming the technology is getting better every film, and the costs of the movies are much cheaper than three years ago as well.


Of course, nobody’s mentioning that 3D didn’t last long the first two times it was around in the fifties as well as in the brief two years or so it came back in the eighties, not to mention many haven’t bought the hype surrounding it this time around. 

Both Hollywood Reporter stories also state that overseas 3D is still doing very well, the “appetite” for the technology being “virtually insatiable in such territories as Russia, China and Brazil.” 

Variety reports that with 3D box office grosses fluctuating wildly, “it seems audiences haven’t been embracing the format to the extent they did when Avatar set the 3D gold standard,” but of course that’s a very tough benchmark to reach.