Americans are putting down their tinted 3D glasses and choosing to see more films in old-fashioned, cheaper two dimensions this summer, according to a report by B. Riley & Co analyst Eric Wold.
Ticket sales for 3D versions of films including last weekend's "The Wolverine" and the recent animated offering "Turbo" hit new lows for the format over the last two weekends, Wold reports, dipping to just 25 percent of the total box office in the case of "Turbo."
"We have become increasingly concerned that these lower levels will actually represent the norm going forward versus a recent exception as consumers are likely to remain increasingly choosy with 3D premiums," Wold wrote in a note to investors.
3D showings of "Turbo" accounted for just 25 percent of its total box office, which represents the format's worst showing yet. "The Wolverine" fared only slightly better, with 3D screenings contributing 30 percent of its $53.1 million opening weekend. That represents a new low point for 3D action releases.
Both breakdowns were substantially worse than this summer's previous worst showings for 3D, when only 31 percent of "Monsters University"'s $82 million debut came from 3D screenings, while roughly 34 percent of "World War Z"s' $66 million bow came from the format.
Prior to that, the lowest-grossing 3D action movie was "Captain America: The First Avenger," which took 40 percent of its opening grosses from screenings in that format, while the worst showing for an animated film was "Brave," which earned 34 percent of its domestic opening from 3D.
3D is more popular with foreign audiences, where it routinely contributes between 80 percent to 90 percent of a film's box office take in places like Russia and China.
Domestically, it had been expected to produce upwards of 40 percent of a film's box office gross, but that appears to be shifting as U.S. moviegoers are growing more selective about what films they see in the format. It could be the expense. After all, those pictures carry with them a $2 to $3 surcharge.
"3D attach rates in the 30-35 percent range that were previously reserved only for the animated genre have now become more of the norm for action/superhero movies – which indicates that the 3D choosiness of consumers has become increasingly pervasive throughout more genres," Wold wrote.
Wold used evidence of this new "norm" to downgrade his valuation for 3D technology maker RealD. He predicted that other 3D releases this quarter, such as "Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters" and "One Direction: This is Us" will not fare much better.