Considering the healthy amount of movies titles that end in 3D arriving in theaters throughout the coming year, you’d think studios would be eager to entice moviegoers with 3D home releases of their favorite films. After all, the average price point for Blu-rays dropped significantly in the last year, and what better way to make up the difference than release high-profile 3D projects such as Alice in Wonderland or How To Train Your Dragon into living rooms as premium 3D Blu-ray releases?
However, despite theatergoers’ spirited interest in 3D, studios continue to hold-back 3D formatted home-releases of some of their biggest 3D projects – releasing only 2D versions.
Analyst Helen Davis Jayalath, the Head of Video at Screen Digest, spoke with Deadline, regarding the peculiar lack of 3D home releases while 3D films continue to dominate the box office. She asserts that premium 3D Blu-rays could help expand interest in the format (as well as revenues):
“Early take-up of 3D Blu-ray would provide a much needed boost to the format, sales of which have fallen short of projections made pre-recession. Perhaps, not surprisingly, studios are hesitant to release their ‘crown jewel’ titles on 3D BD.”
Releasing high-profile films would certainly reassure consumers that 3D isn’t just a passing fad but a legitimate direction that studios intend to support at home – not just in theaters. We’ve been burned before and if there’s one thing studios should have learned from the Blu-ray/HD DVD battle of 2007, it would be the semi-familiar notion, “If you support it, we will come.” What’s the point of buying high-end 3D televisions if there’s nothing to watch - especially if we can’t be sure that studios won’t save their major at home 3D push for future glass-less 3D tech?
Jayalath's colleague, Richard Baxter, co-author of the report Studio Caution May Stymie 3D, Blu-Ray’s Potential Killer App, hints at a possible stalemate between consumers and studios:
“Our research shows that all the studios support 3D BD but many of them are unwilling to release their strongest 3D titles before the installed base of home 3D hardware is large enough to generate serious returns.”
Why would consumers invest in the tech if studios aren’t sure about throwing their most treasured 3D releases into the mix?
When Sony added 3D gaming functionality to the PlayStation 3, through a recent software patch, the studio had a group of complimentary updates ready for use on day one, adding 3D fun to a number of already established titles – entirely for free.
If you look ahead to Sony’s biggest first-party game titles in the next year, several will include 3D functionality – offering a tangible incentive for gamers to upgrade their TVs. Sony is investing in the format and, while gamers are still hesitant, bit-by-bit they’ll have a real reason to make the switch.
Of course, Sony has extra incentive to encourage entertainment enthusiasts to upgrade to 3D tech (as a 3D hardware manufacturer) – so it’s little surprise that the 3D Blu-ray, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, is one of only a handful of 3D Blu-ray titles you'll be able to buy at retail this holiday season – instead of packaged exclusively with 3D hardware.
Most other 3D Blu-rays will only be available as part of special 3D tech-specific packages: How To Train Your Dragon, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Shrek 4 will only be available alongside a purchase of Samsung 3D hardware; Alice In Wonderland as well as Bolt will come with Sony 3D hardware; Coraline and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs will be tied to Panasonic’s 3D hardware offerings.
According to Screen Digest, within four years 28% of homes will have 3D enabled TVs. It’ll be interesting to see how much the install base needs to expand before studios start loosening their grip on their high-profile 3D films.
Maybe the incoming deluge of 3D films currently headed for theaters will make them less protective – since they’ll have more films to sate the home market. That, or they’ll just toss those films into the vault as well and wait patiently on the sidelines – letting James Cameron to do all the convincing.