‘Gravity’ 3D Presales Shoot Into Box-Office Stratosphere

Ninety-one percent of Fandango’s early sales and 80 percent of Movietickets.com’s are for screenings in premium format

Demand for 3D tickets to the opening weekend showings of “Gravity” shot into the stratosphere Thursday.

Online ticket broker Fandango reported that 91 percent of its advance sales for “Gravity were for showings on 3D screens, and Movietickets.com said 3D made up 80 percent of its presales for the space epic. At Fandango, sales for “Gravity,” which stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, represented 60 percent of the tickets sold for this weekend’s movies.

“The ultra-strong buzz for the movie is as much about its groundbreaking visuals as it is for its A-list, Oscar-winning stars,” said Fandango’s chief correspondent Dave Karger.

Director Alfonso Cuaron’s dynamic camera work and visual style have been the hallmarks of films like “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and “Children of Men,” so audiences are eager to see what he does with the format in this, his first 3D outing.

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To what extent this will make a difference at the box office – 3D tickets typically bring a $3-$4 premium – remains to be seen. Distributor Warner Bros. as of early Thursday hadn’t divulged how many of the roughly 3,575 locations that will be screening “Gravity” will offer the format.

For the sake of comparison, when the studio rolled out “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” last December, 3,160 of 4,045 theaters – about 78 percent – offered 3D (which got an extra bounce for the high-frame-rate format). Since the format is a big part of the appeal of the space saga, it’s reasonable to expect that a similar number of the “Gravity” screens will be in 3D.

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The buzz around “Gravity” is easily the most heat generated around a movie because of 3D since Fox rolled out Angl Lee’s “Life of Pi” last year.

While 3D remains popular overseas, it has taken a major hit domestically over the past year. This summer saw Disney and Pixar’s box office hit “Monsters University” post the lowest percentage of 3D returns ever for an animated movie, while Paramount and Brad Pitt‘s “World War Z” was the weakest 3D showing for an action film.