Well, so much for 3D technology becoming the hot new trend in the entertainment world.
Despite an encouraging start, demand has fizzled in recent months. In 2010, for example, a mere 3.2 million 3D televisions were sold – just 1% of the 247 million TVs sold worldwide last year.
Nevertheless, Hollywood is determined to keep 3D alive. Movie studios are cranking out 3D films, with 16 slated for release before the end of the year. And according to research firm, In-Stat, cable TV companies will add more than 100 3D stations by 2014.
With statistics like that, you’d think the trend is alive and kicking. But you’d be wrong. It won’t be enough to spur growth in an area that is already on the road to Flameoutville.
And you shouldn’t be surprised. This has happened before, too…
How Blue Aliens Re-launched the 3D Craze
If you’re old enough to remember the 1950s, you might remember the 3D fad dying out then, too. Having peaked during that decade, audiences lost interest and 3D films simply weren’t profitable.
Flash-forward to today and the craze is underway again, thanks to the massive success of the 3D blockbuster film, Avatar. Released in 2009, the movie raked in a mind-boggling $2 billion, making it the highest-grossing film of all time.
And with that, 3D was off to the races. Just a month later, Samsung began selling its first “3D ready” TV – the UN55C7000. Boo-Keun Yoon, President of Samsung’s Visual Display Business Unit, boldly declared that, “3D is more than just a groundbreaking technology… it’s the future of television.”
Consider me non-plussed.
You see, Samsung, Sony (NYSE: SNE) and others launched their expensive new products – many costing upwards of $3,000 – during an economic crisis.
Still, analysts remain bullish on 3D’s potential. Research firm DisplaySearch predicts sales will reach 91 million units by 2014.
There’s just one problem: interest in 3D is starting to fade…
A Collective Shoulder Shrug for 3D
Despite the fact that 3D movies accounted for one-fifth of box office sales last year, the magic seemed to have faded. Consider these opening weekend flops…
- Tron: Legacy was expected to bring in $50 million in its opening weekend, but fell short with only $44 million.
- The Green Hornet, which benefited from a three-day opening weekend, still only made $33.5 million.
- Yogi Bear made $16.5 million.
- Not even James Cameron could repeat his Avatar magic. The thriller, Sanctum, which he produced, brought in just $9.2 million.
- Disney’s Mars Needs Moms, released on March 11, made only $6.8 million – the 10th worst opening ever for a film playing in more than 3,000 theaters.
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The question is: Why?
Maybe it’s the $20 ticket prices… or the uncomfortable glasses… or perhaps people are simply fed up with the fad.
Whatever the reason, consumer interest in 3D movies is slipping. And that’s bad news for 3D TV, because these films are really the only 3D content available at this point.
So is there any hope for 3D?
Video Gamers to the Rescue?
It’s a little far-fetched to imagine families sitting in the living room, wearing 3D glasses to watch 3D TV shows and movies.
But the idea of gamers immersing themselves in the most advanced 3D video games… well, that’s a different story.
As my colleague, Justin Fritz, recently pointed out, video gamers are a different breed of consumer. While the U.S. box office grossed around $10 billion last year, the video game industry nearly doubled that, with $18.58 billion.
And Panasonic’s (NYSE: PC) Chief Technology Officer, Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, said young gamers are largely responsible for early 3D TV sales.
Two of the heavyweights in the gaming industry are willing to give 3D a shot. Both Sony and Nintendo will release 3D gaming consoles this year. Industry experts are optimistic, in light of the interactive boom that started with the release of the Nintendo Wii.
And really, video games are the ideal place for 3D technology over the film and television industries. Because by the looks of things, the television and movie-going masses are already done with 3D.