Monday, August 25, 2008

How Have Modern 3D Movies Performed? Outrageous Opening Averages, Longevity And Blockbusters!

Let's take a look at the modern box office for 3D movies since last fall's BEOWULF. (For box office performance listings of all 3D movies since 1980 see here). Can we take any meaningful insight from the numbers? Below are the movies thus far listed in order from the top box office take on down, and note two are still in theaters:

$82,195,215 (Domestic) / $113,994,739 (International) / $196,189,954 TOTAL

- Opening Weekend: $27,515,871 from 3,153 theaters, $8,726 average
- Widest Release: 3,249 theaters
- In Release: 77 days / 11 weeks
Beowulf was released in many more 2D screens than the other movies shown here - example: This summer's JOURNEY movie was only at 2,830 theaters at it's widest release which falls 400 or so short of BEOWULF.

$91,893,000 (Domestic) / $22,552,547 (International) / $114,445,547 TOTAL

- Opening Weekend: $21,018,141 from 2,811 theaters, $7,477 average
- Widest Release: 2,830 theaters
- In Release: 45 days / 6.4 weeks**
NOTE: On mainly pure 3D adrenalin, JOURNEY topped BEOWULF domestically after only a month of release.

$65,281,781 (Domestic) / $5,216,966 (International) / $70,498,747 TOTAL

- Opening Weekend: $31,117,834 from 683 theaters, $45,560 average
- Widest Release: 687 theaters
- In Release: 105 days / 15 weeks
NOTE: Hannah's $45,560 even beats THE DARK KNIGHT'S 4,366 theaters opening at a $36,282 average.

4. U2 3D
$9,339,861 (Domestic) / $7,702,666 (International) / $17,042,527 TOTAL
- Opening Weekend: $1,026,121 from 686 theaters, $1,495 average
- Widest Release: 686 theaters
- In Release: 212 days / 30.3 weeks

NOTE: Look at the longevity of U2 3D! Even as the marketing has wound down and much of the buzz has disappeared, it marches on.

$4,185,000 (Domestic) / $2,530,969 (International) / $6,715,969 TOTAL

- Opening Weekend: $1,900,523 from 452 theaters, $4,204 average
- Widest Release: 540 theaters
- In Release: 10 days / 1.4 weeks NOTE: Even though a comparison can be made to U2 3D with the shortage of 3D screens for this movie, FLY ME has a much higher average take on the opening weekend which bodes well for an extremely long release.

**Still in theaters

So what can we glean from the numbers? Plenty. For one - there is simply an ample market for 3D. If you take a fairly straight forward picture like JOURNEY and can pull in $100 million domestically you know you are on to something. JOURNEY was nothing more than a fun, family oriented thrill ride and was presented as such - audiences have responded and enthusiastically so. Was 3D the deciding factor in this success? Undoubtedly yes. 3D allowed the audience to become immersed in the action and bring us closer to the 'reality' the director wanted to create. The 2D screens did much less business than the 3D and as you can see the international take is much lower than domestic as the 3D screens are simply not there.

But BEOWULF is a $200 million movie! Why so much appeal? Story. Blend the engagement of a recognized and well told story with 3D immersion and voila! A true phenomenon. Story played the key role in the international success of BEOWULF as there simply are not many 3D screens available outside of North America - but remember that in the fall of 2008 there were not all that many in North America either. Zemeckis recognized this and told the story perfectly to audiences in both 2D and 3D. Many would argue that Angelina Jolie shares some of the credit however.

Hannah Montana's concert movie proved to many people that 3D was here to stay.
While BEOWULF confused many into thinking that all 3D movies are 100% CGI. Hannah helped dispel that notion with it's live action cinematography.
Look at those opening weekend averages per theater - an eye popping $45,560! Even THE DARK KNIGHT could not skyhook better than that! It is simply unheard of. Hannah went on to huge numbers in North America where she has captured the imagination of many 'tweens' - but did her concert prove anything about 3D? Yes. As I just mentioned it introduced live action 3D. But moreover, it allowed the current generation of 'tweens' to claim ownership over the medium and they will be expecting more and more 3D content from now on. Thirdly and not surprisingly so, Hannah proved that should a successful 3D movie hold over as Disney did with this one, it can tear away box office from other 3D focused movies that cannot break into the 3D screens in time. Yes, I am talking about U2 3D. U2 3D's low numbers reflect 2D screens and 3D IMAX screens essentially. Disney and Hannah had a stranglehold that they would not relinquish.

But I could also be talking about FLY ME TO THE MOON. As I type this post, JOURNEY (July 11th) is still enjoying over 1000 theaters showing the picture while the freshly released (Aug 15th) FLY ME is mired in only 540. While it is great for 3D that the first live action adventure movie will hit $100 million, we need more 3D screens. Much more.

And that is what all the fuss has been about over the past 12 months. Getting action behind the words and getting those 3D screens installed. Revenue is clearly being lost and not just 2D revenue, but the 33-50% more that 3D allows theater chains to enjoy. Audiences are missing out on the entertainment too. Many would like to see the FLY ME animation but simply cannot yet.
Count me as one of them...

As momentum builds into what will become the "Year of 3D" - 2009, look for all those commitments for new 3D screens to be honored and for Hollywood's 3D chrysalis stage to emerge in spectacular fashion. I can't think of a better way to ice the whole thing off than with James Cameron's AVATAR. And you thought Hannah Montana had some great opening buzz - you haven't seen ANYTHING yet. 3D will own the records books shortly I promise you.

Stats courtesy of Box Office Mojo

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Jim Dorey
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