Aside from some diehard fans, 3D is essentially dead in the home. Manufacturers have dropped it from their TVs, and it’s not even an option on UHD Blu-ray. (Many home-theater projectors still include it, and 3D Blu-rays continue to be released.) But 3D has remained strong in commercial cinema, with most major releases available in RealD and IMAX 3D. However, IMAX has now signaled that it will reduce the number of 3D releases in its theaters in an effort to rejuvenate its business after disappointing second-quarter earnings.
In a conference call with investors and analysts, IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster cited the strong performance of Dunkirk, which director Christopher Nolan shot on IMAX cameras. Unlike most so-called tentpole movies, Dunkirk was presented in 2D in all IMAX theaters, which accounted for nearly 25% of its box-office gross during its opening weekend. “It’s worth noting Dunkirk was showing exclusively in 2D, which consumers have shown a strong preference for,” Foster said during the call. “The demand for 2D films is starting to exceed 3D in North America.”
He went on to say, “We’re looking forward to playing fewer 3D versions of films and more 2D versions.” He mentioned that Blade Runner 2049 will be shown in 2D at IMAX theaters when it opens in October.
In addition, IMAX theaters will play more movies for only one week. As IMAX CEO Richard Gelford said on the call, “We intend to shorten the length of play that we allot many films, which helps keep the content on screen fresh.” However, movies that use IMAX cameras, like Dunkirk, will have longer runs. “We have to be very opportunistic about how we schedule,” Gelford said. For example, Avengers: Infinity War—Parts 1 and 2 will use the IMAX/Arri 2D digital camera exclusively, thereby enjoying a longer run in IMAX theaters.
Is this the death knell of 3D in commercial cinema? Or can James Cameron resurrect it yet again with his four Avatar sequels scheduled for yearly December releases starting in 2020? Only time will tell.
Are you a 3D fan? Do you seek it out in commercial cinemas? Or are you happy to see IMAX phase it out?