Turns out, Jeffrey Katzenberg was right all along. Two years ago, the Dreamworks Animation CEO was confidently predicting that they’re be 12-18 full 3D movies in the year 2010. At the time, it seemed like a huge gamble. And now he wins: next year there will be something like 30 3D features. And that’s going to be a problem.
Because, as Variety reports from the 3D Entertainment Summit in (natch) L.A. (an event Variety also happens to be co-presenting), 3D movies have been too successful too fast, and now there aren’t enough screens to go around.
Katzenberg was wrong about one thing: he was hoping to have 6,000 3D screens around the world by March, and as of June, , we were about 1,000 shy. There are too many movies and not enough places to screen them, which means that they get bumped from theaters faster. As director Henry Selick, whose film “Coraline” was kicked out of its 3D run three weeks in by “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience,” put it, “I feel positively about designing the film for 3D and disappointed about how few people got to see it in the ideal way.”
But seriously now: do we really believe that 3D is The Future of Movies? According to way over-quoted box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, “Monsters vs. Aliens” was the tipping point for 3D; whatever you think of that movie, it’s clearly not a landmark for the ages. Thing is, 3D is still a gimmick; “Gran Torino” was a surprise hit, but no one’s going to argue it would’ve done better if Clint Eastwood had eaten Hmong food in glorious 3D.
The process only makes sense for movies that are already supposed to be visual spectaculars (or horror movies with knives or zombies flying at the audience, which apparently never gets old.) It won’t juice up every movie’s receipts. And I suspect the studios already know that: there’s very little they’ve released in 3D that isn’t already heavily invested in visuals. 30 3D movies next year? They’re not all going to be “Avatar.” And the great 3D crisis probably isn’t going to be all that great after all, once Hollywood figures out that special prices are for visually special movies — then the number of screens and movies will be just right.
[Photo: “Coraline,” Focus Features, 2009]