Sunday, September 16, 2012

3D Is A Freaking Gimmick

Industry analysts and Disney are all surprised and dismayed by the disappointment of Finding Nemo in 3D. I'm not. First, 3D is a gimmick. Plain and simple. It might be a cool gimmick, but it doesn't add anything to the experience of a movie other than a little "wow." That small amount of "wow" isn't enough to increase the value of the movie going experience to where more people are willing to pay. The industry instead has a smaller number of people willing to pay the same or more. This is the direct opposite of industry growth and the reason why we have seen a decrease in tickets sold from a peak way back in 2002.

Those numbers are actually much worse than they appear. The US population continues to grow at a rate of about 1.0% per year. All things being equal, we should be seeing a 1% annual increase in ticket sales. We are not. They do nothing but go down.

Second, and this is the biggest reason why I'm not surprised: movie studios and theaters seem to think that 3D is the magic bullet that will allow them to continue their constant increase in ticket prices. It is not something that is used to increase value. It is something to balance out an extant equation that is going in the wrong direction. If your business is not increasing value, it is dying.

Slapping 3D onto a nine-year-old movie and then trying to sell it at current prices is no way to add value. It does not overcome the loss of value from the movie being old and seen by pretty much everyone that would want to see it. The huge success of The Lion King in 3D was novelty, just as the massive success of Avatar was novelty. Once that novelty is gone, it's gone. Not just a studio, but the industry cannot get it back.

Monsters Inc. 3D will do worse than Nemo, and the percentage of movie sales going to more expensive 3D showings will continue to drop. Unless the studios and theaters drop 3D to the same prices as ordinary tickets, they will kill this frail golden goose. And even then, I suspect that it will fade. I hate 3D. I would pay more to avoid 3D, and I know many people who feel the same way.

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