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

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

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.

  • mfs

    I wouldn't bet that all of a sudden Gravity is going to create an audience for 3D. I'm going to see it tonight but not because of the 3D but because I want to see it in an IMAX theater. I saw Avatar in 3D and was totally unimpressed and thought it completely unnecessary and I haven't seen a movie in 3D since (and I go to a pretty fair number of movies) and don't expect to see another one in the foreseeable future. Then again, I'm not a part of the demographic that Hollywood is most interested in. When more mediocre movies start pulling in audiences with 3D then, maybe, I'll think things have changed but not on the basis of one supposedly unusual movie.

    • Ningu

      You are in for a treat!

      • mfs

        I did, in fact, see Gravity last night in a 3D IMAX theater. Loved the movie, thought IMAX contributed greatly. I also thought that the 3D was completely unnecessary. For me, at least, it added nothing. 3D is not the wave of the future in the movie industry. Now if only one could be sure that better movies were the future …

  • FTCS

    Why is everything a “tipping point”? Just because Gravity or Avatar or Prometheus actually utilize 3D in the proper way to enhance the film…doesn't mean that people are, again, running into the general 3D ‘rip off’ which has been foisted upon the public by the greedy studios.

    The studios burned the public so badly that it will take years for them to pony up 3D dollars unless it is a film like Gravity.

    Generally 3D sucks along with the glasses and dark image often produced after the 2D format in which the film was shot.

    These ‘tipping point’ stories are absurd…period!!!!

    • tonhogg

      Of course it is a tipping point. Movie studios can take this film and analyze why it did well in 3d ticket sales. Of course they may not be able to apply any of these reasons right off the bat, but in a year or tow they can start coming out with 3d movies that utilize any of the reasons they may glean from it. I really think 3d haters bury their heads in the sand when it comes to people liking 3d. Sure not everyone likes 3d, and never will no matter how good it is, but do you honestly think EVERYONE dislikes everything you dislike? Plus how can it be forced on people when you admit a lot of people were not choosing 3d so much over the past year. You can't say everyone is forced, then say they will not pony up for 3d, you can't have it both ways. Most everyone does have access to a 3d movie in 2d at the multiplex.

    • Eric

      > dark image often produced

      The dark image is because cheap theaters don't properly calibrate their projection for 3D, either because they are inept or are trying to save life on their ultra expensive projector bulbs. It's not a technical limitation of 3D at all.

  • jhs39

    Gravity is doing well in 3-D because it isn't a 2-D film converted to 3-D to fleece film-goers. It is not going to change people's general attitude towards the format. I predict that the new Thor film will do no better in 3-D than any of the Summer films did. Then this tipping point story will be proved to be every bit as idiotic as it seems.

    • hupto

      Um, sorry to disappoint you, but it WAS shot flat and then converted. But you're right that it's an isolated case and won't provide an overall boost to the format in general.

      • tonhogg

        Yeah, sorry, this film was a 3d conversion.

  • AnotherHappyValleySunday

    Tipping point or just a movie spectacle suited for 3D? Some movies might be suitable for 3D, the vast majority are not. Black & white movies do not need to be colourized. 2D movies do not need to be converted to 3D. What's next, ultra smell-o-vision? It worked once for John Waters. Maybe there's real untapped money there. Or maybe it's just a gimmick like 3D that is ok once in a while but mostly unnecessary otherwise.

  • nfgrfrrffff

    It did not ‘reinvigorated U.S. audiences’ appetites for 3D films'. Gravity did well for a few reasons. The marketing and the great reviews happen to go a long way. It also happens to be a great film. The trailers where stunning and they were in 2D. To imply that all of the sudden people are going to run out and see all the 3D films in silly. I still do not see the appeal of 3D at all. When given a choose I almost always go to 2D.

  • Kim

    I agree with FTCS below. I work in the film industry. I don't think that just because it is promoted to be a “blockbuster” film, it deserves to be 3D. There has to be a solid story behind it. 3D is foisted on the public to bolster the box office; not because the movie is worthy of 3D. Most of the movies in 3D aren't even filmed with 3D in mind. In other words, the movie needs to be shot in a manner that makes you feel you're actually within the movie rather than having something just fly at you because “it can”.