3D technology — an emerging success?

RealD’s John Trafford-Owen considers the impact  a new wave of 3D can have in emerging markets


 For the past decade, “Avatar” alone has held the coveted title of highest grossing movie. All good things come to an end — “Avengers: End Game” is the new kid on the block. Maybe it will reign for a decade, maybe only until jedis arrive at Christmas, or maybe we will have to wait for James Cameron to finish his sequel, but let’s think back to when we first visited Pandora, and the heralding of a new three-dimensional dawn. “Avatar” was 3D’s coming of age. The modern version of the format may have started with “Chicken Little” in 2005, but “Avatar” in 2009, was the 3D extravaganza that delivered, casting aside memories of green-and-red glasses and nausea. 

Films that followed aimed to cash in on the craze and released hastily converted versions that didn’t stand up to the experience audiences had enjoyed with the Na’vi. Cinemas scrambled to install digital projectors and 3D systems without considering whether the architecture of the auditoria suited the technology. Customers won’t tolerate this kind of approach for long. If a moviegoer sees a poorly made 2D film on a dark projector, they don’t say “I’m never watching a 2D movie again”. When it comes to 3D that’s exactly the reaction. 

Emerging markets are in a great position to learn these lessons. Premium experiences should be just that. They help generate incremental revenue, increasing ticket prices and spend per customer, but a value exchange must be present. Customers must walk out of a premium show and feel it was money well spent. If a consumer can’t understand why they handed over more cash to watch that movie, it’s not something they are likely to do again. 

The wheat among the chaff

From a content perspective, it is a constant battle to ensure sufficient time and focus is given to the use of 3D as a creative tool, and that sufficient money is spent on the conversion (if indeed the film is converted). Each year a few movies deliver the must-see 3D event. “Alita” and “Lion King” show what the format is capable of, and I can’t wait to see what Ang Lee has done with “Gemini Man”. We need to convince the customer why every film should be seen in a premium way.

Filmmakers start the process, advocating the 3D format, distributors continue that journey, through studio marketing messages and creation of 3D trailers. Exhibitors have a huge role to play. Programming at peak times, opening 3D box office at the same time as 2D and playing trailers when available. Equally important are the fundamentals: the best auditorium, the right screen, system, glasses and projector, as well as providing optimum light levels for the content — even thinking about the porthole glass. There is much that contributes to the overall success of 3D’s performance in any given market — and the responsibility falls on us all. 

Emerging markets have none of the baggage inherent in trying to grow too quickly without full understanding of the technology. 3D is mature, but laser projectors offer exciting opportunities to give audiences the experience that “Avatar” first delivered. There is no legacy of disappointment or poor content, only anticipation of what the format can deliver. It is one of the most accessible premium offerings in terms of investment and can blow the minds of consumers. Emerging markets have a huge role to play in the future success of 3D and together we will make the most of this opportunity.