Are audiences losing interest in the 3D revolution? The above graph, by TheWrap's Daniel Frankel, suggests they just might be. The percentage swing in 3D numbers would appear to indicate that audiences are increasingly less willing to shell out on higher ticket prices. This represents a big downward shift in the numbers, which peaked with Avatar's release last December.
It's not surprising that the movies that have followed Avatar haven't seen the same amount of take-up for their 3D incarnations – part of Avatar's campaign and word-of-mouth allure was the insistence that the movie had to be seen in 3D to get the full effect. But the numbers for films like Toy Story 3 and The Last Airbender, which were also largely marketed on how they looked in 3D, are a touch disappointing.
As opponents of the 3D revolution have been pointing out in recent months, the fad for 3D cinema has come and gone in the past. But key supporters of this iteration say that the technology is different now; that it's more immersive and much more worthwhile an experience. Audiences, we're told, are demanding the technology to further enhance a trip to the cinema.
But the director of last weekend's big movie, Inception's Christopher Nolan, has never been a fan, and declined studio suggestions to shoot that film in 3D. That didn't stop the movie – neither a sequel nor based on any established franchise – from grossing $62.8 million in its opening weekend.
Hastily converted films like Clash of the Titans and Alice in Wonderland may also be turning moviegoers off. The nature of 3D projection means images are darker than conventional 2D prints – even when they're optimised, as was the case for Avatar – meaning films not conceived for 3D end up looking dim and washed-out.
The big question with this surge towards 3D technology is one of sustainability. The added revenues mean studios are well behind it and will likely stay that way for some time, but it is essentially a novelty, and novelties are wont to wear off. Even with Avatar, part of the sell was the experience of seeing something you hadn't seen before. But that's only going to work once...