Box office (BO) revenues from 3D film releases in North America fell 13.1% in H1 2013 to $1.05bn compared with $1.21bn in H1 2012, according to data from IHS. The decline reflects a quiet box office period overall during the first quarter, but also a new lower threshold for 3D in terms of retained revenue from configured screens as some imperviousness to 3D penetrates a wider range of film genres.
The market share of total box office from 3D also slipped to represent 18.6 per cent of the total box office in H1 2013 representing a decline from 2012's share at the same midway point of the year (22.5 per cent) . The level of 3D penetration therefore continues to show a fairly robust market in terms of quality of output (major blockbusters) but one that is increasingly negated by the lower take-up of 3D tickets per individual film.
It was the second quarter which recorded the stronger performance of 23.2 per cent of total box office coming from 3D screens. This was a large improvement on the 12.2 per cent share in the first three months. The higher proportion in Q2 stems from the now established pattern of a run of major blockbusters released in the 3D format, notably Paramount's Iron Man 3 in May, which has grossed over $400m in North American cinemas to date as the most successful 2D and 3D film of the year.
A total of 18 major 3D films were released in H1 2013, just two more than the previous year. However, only three titles (not including re-issues or minor releases) convinced the majority of the audience to pay the higher ticket premium for the 3D version, all of which were released in the quieter Q1 period. Also for the first time, two titles failed to generate at least one third of box office from 3D screens, including one live-action title (Warner's The Great Gatsby) and one animation. Previously a pushback linked to the increased ticket price has been noted for family audiences on animation titles, but 3D fatigue has therefore continued to bring in further genres once at saturation point. For example, of the top ten titles as at end July 2013, nine of the ten were released in both 2D and 3D.
On average, the split of 3D box office per title equated to 43.7 per cent in H1 2013 representing a further decline of average box office retained by 3D screens from 52 per cent in full year 2012.
2013 therefore marks a turning point where 3D has failed to hold its previous majority box office share. Nonetheless, the malaise has continued to spread as July 2013 titles have once again reset expectations for 3D at a new low of a reported 25 per cent split of the total box office from 3D screens for Dreamworks Animation's Turbo and 30 per cent for Fox's The Wolverine, the latter of which is reportedly a conversion in post, in turn also viewed more cynically by audiences.
However, the weakening of 3D penetration by title has also been noted by IHS over the summer period in both 2011 and 2012 as demand to see blockbusters is strong overall whether on 2D or 3D screens. The most recent data period has, however, reset 3D screen expectations lower still.
Post summer, 3D is likely to continue to regain some ground coming into Q3 and Q4, with some key titles and better scheduling likely to have an impact.