The 3D format remains a tool, not a new genre
By Scott Mendelson
HollywoodNews.com: There’s a new article out from Anne Thompson, who I usually enjoy, regarding the alleged downturn of 3D. Basically the gist is that 3D is in peril, and the big savior of the format will be “Tron: Legacy.” The piece itself is harmless, and to be fair it’s more of an advertisement for “Tron: Legacy” than a real discussion about 3D. But it’s just another notch in the ‘dear god, the 3D sky is falling’ bit that forgets the most important part of this whole mess… I’m going to try really hard not to turn this into another endless rant, so bear with me. It’s the movie. It’s the movie. It’s the movie, stupid…
“Piranha 3D” didn’t break out mainly because it was an uber-gruesome R-rated horror film that was advertised as just the sort of thing you can catch for free on the SyFy Channel on Saturday night (which, to be fair, is indeed truth in advertising). Yet, the $24 million piece of soulless garbage has made $63 million worldwide, so the film is still a genuine hit. “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” was a sequel no one asked for nine years after the fact. It was also so terrible that my three-year old was bored. But it still crossed $100 million+ worldwide. “Step Up 3D” may not have exploded despite actually being shot in 3D, but the $40 million picture has grossed $137 million worldwide, more than the $114 million global take of “Step Up,” but less than the $150 million worldwide gross of “Step Up 2.” And “Alpha and Omega” may be an out-and-out flop, but did anyone think that the terribly-bland looking Lionsgate cartoon was going to break out? Remember, Lionsgate’s far more ambitious “Battle For Terra” (ironically, a 3D animated version of “Avatar” six months prior to “Avatar”) grossed only $3.7 million worldwide. Yes, that’s the lowest-grossing 3D movie on record. Regardless, the former $20 million wolf-pack romance has already grossed $16 million worldwide and still has at least a few weeks left.
Let’s take a look at what did break out. “Despicable Me” is just a couple days away from becoming the 10th-biggest animated film in domestic history. Was it because of the 3D? No, it’s because “Despicable Me” (which I finally saw this weekend in a 2D second-run theater) is a wonderfully inventive and clever movie, a joy from start to finish and a genuine crowd-pleaser. It opened to $56 million because Universal did a bang-up job selling the movie, contrasting the subversive story (root for the super villain!) with kid-pleasing comedy (the kids, and the yellow minions). “Resident Evil: Afterlife” has basically performed like every other entry in the franchise, with more muscular overseas numbers and a token 3D ticket price boost. And “The Legend of the Guardians” opened with $16 million, which isn’t too bad considering the somewhat challenging material (it’s an action film about owls, and it looks just scary enough to make parents nervous). Had the film not cost an absurd $150 million, the Zack Snyder cartoon would count in the win column, but the 3D isn’t what caused the movie to cost as much as “Watchmen.” And while “The Last Airbender” was one of the worst films of the year, it opened like gangbusters ($69 million over five days) not because of the 3D conversion but because of the rabid fanbase of the original “Avatar: The Last Airbender” cartoon and the (now on life-support) bankability of M. Night Shyamalan. And of course, “Toy Story 3” was the best film of the year, and it would have been just as effective on an iPhone.
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