Where Does 3D Stand in a Post-Avatar World?

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"Avatar: The Way of Water" has finally been dethroned from the box office by not just M. Night Shyamalan's "Knock at the Cabin" but by surprise hit "80 for Brady," landing number 3 at the box office. As of this writing, the film is the third highest-grossing film of all time. What's more, if 3D fans want to revisit the film in 3D they still have plenty of screens to go to. It seems weird that this blog was quiet during all this "Avatar: The Way of Water" stuff (I also forgot to do my yearly 3D nominations list, so that will have to be done later), but I decided that this holiday season I needed to spend time for myself and my family, and so this blog got put on the sidelines (and on an additional note, I wrote this article a few weeks ago and am doing a second draft now so...life).

Now that the dust has settled, has "Avatar: The Way of Water" moved the 3D needle very much? What are some of the important stats that it hit and can 3D make a comeback as a result? Here are some of the highlights:

  • Roughly 67% of "Avatar: The Way of Water" tickets sold during the first weekend were for 3D and premium screens.
  • For the first three weeks no premium screens showed the movie in 2D (and few switched to 2D after those three weeks were up).
  • Five weeks into the movies run regular RealD 3D screenings were readily available.
  • Custom-made 3D trailers for future Marvel and Pixar movies were prepared in anticipation of the success of "Avatar: The Way of Water," planting seeds in the minds of moviegoers that there is more than one worthwhile 3D experience coming to theaters.
  • Despite most of the 3D screens going to "Avatar: The Way of Water," "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" got some 3D love at the box office, with roughly 17% of the first two weeks' ticket sales going to 3D showings (up by the average 9%-12%).
These are all notable wins for the 3D format. Does this mean 3D is back in a big way? Not exactly, but it's a start. Notably, Disney was able to capitalize on the renewed interest in the format in a couple of big ways. As mentioned before, previews for "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantimanium" stressed that the preferred way to view the movie was in 3D (even the 2D commercials had characters literally jumping over the black bars). For that matter, they are pushing the 3D screenings in some of their social media advertising:

This means Disney is hoping to try and condition people to select the more expensive 3D tickets going forward. What's more, a 4K re-release of Cameron's own "Titanic" provided a good haul for the studio, showing that people were still willing to see 3D movies IF the 3D experience was worth paying for! With all these movies doing better in 3D, we're starting to see more 3D screenings being given to upcoming films like "The Super Mario Brothers Movie" and "Elementals!" The commercials are starting to advertise the 3D format once again. While there is no news on new 3D TV's being released, we do know that "Avatar: The Way of Water" and "Titanic" WILL be getting 4K releases this year (and The Digital Bits editor Bill Hunt has reason to believe we'll have 3D options available)!

While it is still wishful thinking at the moment, there is still a part of me that believes some TV manufacturer will have to have a new 4K 3D TV in the pipeline to please all of the new 'Avatar' fans who want to watch one of the latest highest grossing films of all time as close to the theatrical release as possible. Right now, I'll consider it a win that "Avatar: The Way of Water" has re-opened the door to audiences being receptive to 3D movies once again. Hopefully Hollywood won't blow it again with terrible post-conversion jobs.