An analysis published in Slate last August showed that the patient might already have flat-lined. The profitability of 3-D cinema had dropped since the start of the vogue several years earlier, and more recent films were barely breaking even on their 3-D screenings. Now we've got another year's worth of data—12 months' more evidence that the medium is in peril. According to a New York Times business story from June, waning enthusiasm for 3-D has brought the vultures circling, with shares of DreamWorks Animation, the studio managed by Jeffrey "2-D films are going to be a thing of the past" Katzenberg, in free-fall. Shares of RealD, one of the big players in stereo projection technology, have also been in a tailspin, losing 70 percent of their value since May.
"Anyone would have realized he was dead, just one look at those staring eyes," says Grace Kelly's character in Dial M For Murder, the Hitchcock thriller that became one of the last mainstream 3-D features to be produced during an earlier cycle of boom and bust. By the time of that film's release in 1954, the first great fad for stereo cinema had perished without much ceremony. By all appearances, its 21st-century descendent has met a similar fate.
Slate has provided a interesting graph showing the decline.Identifying the victim is easy, though. The trick is to find the culprit. Like Dial M's Inspector Hubbard, it's time to make a careful accounting of the evidence, to follow the trail of box-office numbers to their bloody end. It's been a year since 3-D first began to stagger, and we finally have some clues about what might have caused its demise. Let's line up the suspects and verify their stories against the facts. Who killed 3-D?
The updated graph [above] shows almost every major 3-D release since the beginning of 2009. The ratio of 3-D revenue to 2-D revenue per theater is shown on the Y-axis, and the dotted red line represents the break-even point. The trend that was beginning to take shape last summer has deepened in the last few months. (Data exclude any film that opened at fewer than 1,500 locations, and films with "3-D" in the title, which only a fool would see on a flat screen.)
The article goes on to list 4 reasons why 3D is crashing so spectacularly. It is well worth the read and very enlightening to show you what is going on in theatrical exhibition.