If anyone knows how to wring a buck out of 3D it's Disney and Tim Burton. The pair combined and brought in $1 billion fucking dollars with "Alice In Wonderland" last year, a post-converted abomination that even in 2D would have been painful. Regardless, audiences around the world lined up to watch. However, it looks like will abandon the format at least temporarily for his next effort, "Dark Shadows."
The Wrap spoke with Burton during the press rounds for the LACMA exhibit of his various works, and the director revealed that his next film won't require glasses. "I have no plans for that," Burton said. "I loved doing 'Alice' in 3D. 'Frankenweenie,' gonna do that in 3D. There’s people like, 'Everything’s gonna be in 3D,' or 'I hate 3D!' I think people should have a choice. I don’t think it should be forced on anybody. At the same time, it’s great, some of it. It’s like 'Yes or no!? 3D! Yes or no?!' It’s like, well, you know, come on, whatever, some yes, some no."
Burton's mixed feelings on the format are pretty much indicative of the industry as a whole who now seem to be crowing a little less loudly about 3D being the savior of a box office with that extra ticket price bump no longer guaranteed to pad out the bottom line. In the New York Times over the weekend, the paper pointed to the less than anticipated performance of "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (it didn't crack $100 million domestically as the studio would have hoped on its opening weekend) as a sign that North American audiences are tiring of paying extra dollars for a format that has little added value.
“Audiences are very smart,” Greg Foster, president of Imax Filmed Entertainment said. “When they smell something aspiring to be more than it is, they catch on very quickly.”
Okay, so 'Stranger Tides' has done fantastically worldwide, taking in over $600 million in less than two weeks and proving that at least internationally, 3D is still viewed as a novelty. So what then of "Kung Fu Panda 2" which just opened this weekend? The film brought in $125 million worldwide over the Memorial Day weekend and with no major competition for at least two weeks when "Mr. Popper's Penguins" opens, it should do just fine. But as Deadline reveals, what is troubling the industry is that only 45% of ticket sales were in 3D for the animated film versus 60% for "Shrek Forever After" around the same frame last year. Moreover, Wall Street is worried with stock prices in RealD dropping hard.
What is going on?!
Is the economy making moviegoers more wary of splurging on 3D or have we really and truly tired of the format thanks to cheap conversions at premium prices? The short answer? It's far too early to tell. There are still plenty more 3D movies coming this summer -- 16 between May and September, more than doubling the amount of 3D movies in the same time period last year -- and two movies "underperforming" hardly constitutes a trend. On our part, we would be fine if we never had to deal with the format ever again, but quite simply, it's not going away anytime soon. George Lucas is converting all his "Star Wars" movies into the format, Peter Jackson and James Cameron are making "The Hobbit" and "Avatar" respectively 3D-ier by shooting at faster frame rates and as long as there is a buck to be had, Hollywood will continue to chase it. But you know what we'd rather see? More of what Christopher Nolan is doing with IMAX, using the large format to create truly memorable vistas in his films. Those shots in "The Dark Knight" still stick in our mind more anything that hovered in front of our faces in 3D. Just saying.
So sorry, those glasses will still be required for the time being. The sky isn't falling...yet.