The reign of 3D is over in US cinemas


Have you ever gone to the cinema only to find the movie you want to see is only available in 3D? And, not wanting to wait around for the next non-3D showing, you succumb, pay the extra money it costs for a 3D ticket, and don the plastic frames? That inconvenience could soon be over.

Imax, the cinema operator that helped give rise to the modern era of 3D filmmaking, has said it plans to play fewer of those versions of movies and more 2D versions of films like Dunkirk, which was shot on 65mm to take advantage of Imax’s large screen size.

Imax’s shift comes as the exhibitor missed badly on earnings during the second quarter of 2017, thanks to cinema letdowns like Transformers: The Last Knight and The Mummy. “Consumers in many markets are showing a clear preference,” said Greg Foster, CEO of Imax Entertainment, on a conference call yesterday. “It’s apparent that the demand for 2D film is starting to exceed that of 3D in North America, and we’ll be looking to keep more of our films in 2D as a result.”

For example, the upcoming Blade Runner 2049 is being released in 3D, but Imax theaters will play the 2D version, Foster said.

From the dizzying heights of Avatar, it now seems 3D films are no longer a draw for American audiences. Last year, the 3D box office shrunk 8% in the US and Canada to its lowest point since 2009, while the overall box office grew in those markets, the Motion Picture Association of America (paywall) found.

The format peaked in North America in 2010. Yet, Hollywood keeps releasing 3D versions of its films. The number of 3D releases in the US and Canada rose 30% to a high of 52 in 2016, MPAA data showed.

It’s not US audiences movie studios courting with those, it’s China.

Asia Pacific has by far the highest share of 3D screens of any region in the world. And Chinese moviegoers, in particular, have shown an affinity for 3D movies. The increasingly influential market gravitates toward the kind of over-the-top, computer-generated popcorn flicks that play well in three dimensions.

Feature image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr, licensed under CC by 2.0.

Read next: Who the hell watched “Warcraft?” China is fueling the market for overdone Hollywood action movies

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