‘Gravity’ Represents ‘Turning Point’ for 3D at the Box Office, Analyst Says

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The film out-performs “Avatar” and “Life of Pi” in the format

“Gravity” has reinvigorated U.S. audiences’ appetites for 3D films after a dreadful summer for the format, B. Riley analyst Eric Wold wrote Monday following the space adventure’s smash opening.

Buoyed by strong reviews and an interest in seeing what a visual stylist like Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”) could do with the format, audiences rediscovered their enthusiasm for the rose-tinted spectacles. Eighty percent of “Gravity”s’ $55.6 opening weekend haul came from 3D showings.

That’s an even stronger showing than other significant 3D milestones like James Cameron’s “Avatar” and Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” which generated 72 percent and 68 percent respectively of their opening weekend box office totals from 3D screens.

Also read: Did ‘Gravity’ Really End as It Seemed? An Alternate Theory (Spoilers)

“With ‘Gravity’ driving one of the highest 3D take rates, we continue to believe this  could represent a significant turning point for consumer and investor sentiment around 3D following a dismal summer,” Wold wrote in a note to investors.

The movie stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as astronauts who become stranded in space when debris wrecks their shuttle.

“Gravity”s’ sterling performance follows a dispiriting few months for 3D films at the stateside box office. Films like “Monsters University” and “World War Z” struggled to convince audiences it was worth shelling out an additional $3 to $4 to see them in 3D.

And in July, the format hit a new low-water mark when 3D showings of “Turbo” accounted for just 25 percent of its total box office, representing the format’s worst showing yet. That same month,”The Wolverine” eked out 30 percent of its $53.1 million opening weekend from 3D showings —  a new low point for 3D action releases.

Also read: George Clooney: ‘Gravity’ Is an Argument for 3D

Wold projects that “Gravity ” is on track to generate between $150 million to $160 million at the domestic box office. He more than doubled his estimates for what 3D will contribute to the film’s U.S. box office take, raising it from$42 million to between $90 million to $95 million based on last weekend’s results.

3D tends to be more popular with foreign audiences than domestic ones, but that was not the case with “Gravity” — roughly 70 percent of the $23.7 million it took from 52 foreign markets came from 3D.

Wold said he is optimistic that films like “Thor: The Dark World” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” will continue to perform well in 3D.

“For weeks, we have noted that Gravity would represent a significant positive turning point for investor and consumer  sentiment around the 3D premium format – and, without a doubt, this definitely seems to be the case,” Wold wrote.

Also read: 3D Still A Hit With Foreign Audiences, But Domestically It’s a Different Story

Gravity was also released onto IMAX 3D screens, with the movie generating $11.2 million in box office, or more than 20 percent of the movie’s domestic total from the big screen format.

In the case of “Gravity,” the wide expanses of space, the stars, the earth, the moon and all that action made it a film that benefited from the extra dimensions, Clooney argued to TheWrap last week.

“There has to be a reason for it, and there’s a reason for the 3D in this film,” he said.

Audiences apparently agree.