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3D films fall flat

Audiences abandon 'a waste of a perfectly good dimension'

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There are indications that Hollywood's rush to extract extra cash from cinemagoers in return for an extra visual dimension might be doomed to follow previous 3D initiatives into the cutting room bin.

The release of Avatar last December - the James Cameron epic which grossed $2.7bn - had movie execs licking their lips at the prospect of taking punters for an extra fiver if they could just persuade them to don a pair of 3D specs.

The tridimensional landrush soon delivered dedicated 3D pics such as Alice In Wonderland, How to Train Your Dragon and Shrek Forever After. However, as the Avatar effect began to fade, audiences appeared to be abandoning the novelty.

The Telegraph explains that when Avatar hit screens, 71 per cent of Americans who queued up on the opening weekend did so at 3D cinemas. How to Train Your Dragon clocked up 68 per cent, while by May, Shrek Forever After saw the figure fall to 61 per cent.

Earlier this month, 56 per cent caught The Last Airbender in 3D, and just a week later the writing appeared to be on the wall with 45 per cent opting to put on glasses for Despicable Me.

3D's cause hasn't been helped much by conversions of films shot in 2D. Squeezing extra depth out of Clash of the Titans back in April drew criticism for the poor image quality.

Tinsel Town mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg dissed it as a "cheeseball conversion", describing it as helping "kill that goose that is delivering us golden eggs".

He said: "We're still at the beginning of this and not all 3D is equal, and consumers are beginning to realise this. There have been lesser 3D movies released and there's already been a backlash against it."

Three dimensional defenders say the format is not in trouble. They stress that just 5,000 of the US's 40,000 cinema screen are currently capable of showing 3D, and cite Alice In Wonderland, which enjoyed "the sixth biggest opening weekend of all time in March, grossing $116 million (£75 million,) two thirds of which came from 3D screenings".

US film critic Roger Ebert is having none of it. He said: "3D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension and Hollywood's current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the movie-going experience. For some, it is an annoying distraction. For others, it creates nausea and headaches."

The Telegraph notes that studios are working on "at least" 24 new 3D films for next year, while mulling whether or not to continue with suicidal plans to convert the likes of Star Wars or Harry Potter into the format. ®

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