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3D movies by the numbers

3D movies by the numbers (photo)

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When I went to see “Captain America: The First Avenger,” last weekend, I picked a 2D screening. I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with films shot in 2D and exhibited in 3D like “Captain America,” so I figured I’d save a few bucks. But when I arrived at the theater for the film, there was a problem: the management had booked a 2D “Cap” screening into an auditorium configured for 3D. After a few minutes scrambling to change their projector, the theater staff announced that nothing could be done: the film would be shown in 3D and everyone would be given a pair of free 3D glasses.

At that point, the entire sold-out theater of some 400 people burst into boos.

Clearly I wasn’t the only one getting disenchanted with these 2.5D movies. Maybe that’s why I was so interested to read this recent essay on DavidBordwell.net by Kristin Thompson. Her information might not be new, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen box office statistics for 3D movies analyzed so thoroughly and so cogently. All her facts and figures are widely available on sites like Box Office Mojo, but they’re lacking Thompson’s common sense analysis and smart criticism.

I’m particularly impressed with the way Thompson breaks down the percentages of grosses that movies like “Captain America” make from 3D and 2D theaters. She begins by asking a simple but important question: how much money do 3D movies really bring in?

“The basic fact is that the money brought in by a film made in 3D only amounts to the supplement paid by the spectator beyond what he or she would have paid if the film were in 2D. Let’s assume that the supplement is $3 and that a 3D admission costs $12 and a 2D one $9… removing the $3 supplement takes away 25% of the ticket price. So what the 3D process as such really adds to the box-office total is 10% (that’s 25% of 40% [of all tickets sold for a movie available in either 3D and 2D]). To put it another way, $9 of the $12 for the ticket is just for the film qua film, the rest is for its being in 3D.”

A great point that no one ever mentions. When we say “This movie made $35 million dollars at its 3D theaters,” we’re not considering the fact that 75% of the $35 million customers paid was for the film itself, with just the remaining 25% relating to the upcharge of 3D. And here’s one more great point:

“Consider the opening weekend of ‘Captain America,’ which grossed $65.7 million, 40% of which came from theaters equipped with 3D. But it’s really 10% by my reasoning, so it’s not $26.3 million that 3D generated, but $6.57 million. Assuming further that it costs about $30 million to make a film in 3D or convert it to 3D in post-production, ‘Captain America’ would have to run in the U.S. market for around four weeks with no decline in attendance to break even on 3D. But most films decline on their second weekend, unless they open in more theaters or have terrific word of mouth. Even “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” which had lots of repeat business, declined 19% on its second weekend.”

Thompson’s math might not be perfect; I think $30 million is the generally reported cost to shoot a movie in 3D like “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Converting a 2D movie like “Captain America” to 3D in post-production is significantly less expensive. Still Thompson’s reasoning is sound: if only 10% of a film’s grosses can be set aside to offset the cost of 3D, a movie earning just 40% of its money from 3D screens would have to be an enormous box office hit to justify its production or conversion in the format. It’s sort of an economies of scale issue: if you’ve got a “Transformers” or a “Pirates of the Caribbean,” movies that routinely gross near a billion dollars worldwide, the 3D pays for itself and more. But if you’ve got a smaller film with a chillier box office forecast — something on par with, say, “The Green Hornet” or “Green Lantern” — you face an uphill battle returning your investment in 3D. That goes for movie theaters too — if movies like “Captain America” begin to earn more money on 2D screens than on 3D screens — even though people are paying more per ticket for 3D — you could quickly begin to see exhibitors switch back to 2D to improve their revenues.

If these trends in 3D attendance continue, I think we may (finally) see fewer 3D titles, particularly in that middle-tier of medium budgeted event movies. At least I hope so.

Did you go see “Captain America” in 2D or 3D? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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