3D not worth movie upcharge
May 24, 2011
I went to my favorite gas station Tuesday. It’s not my favorite because it has the cheapest prices on gas. Actually, the more expensive gas is, the more counterproductive it is to drive to a specific station to save pocket change.
It’s because that station is the only place I can find a particular candy — let’s say it was a Clark Bar. It’s always in stock, because I seem to be the only customer that buys them.
I go there constantly for gasoline and drinks — which are all cheaper at other places — because it makes a small investment other stations don’t.
Hollywood should take note.
I watch a lot of movies. Check Thursday’s paper for the Ticket section. There’s a movie review from me. I do 52 of those a year. That doesn’t count everything I watch on streaming services that are ruining my life. Nor does it count the movies I see in the theater.
I assume I spend $450-$500 annually on movies. If I can help it, not another dollar’s going to 3D.
If you haven’t seen a 3D movie, here’s what happens from my experience: You pay the standard ticket price, then you pay a 3D upcharge of anywhere from $2 to $5 per person. You get a pair of plastic glasses that let you see a few effects, and you hope you’re not the type who gets a headache from the distorted view. Theaters rarely waive the upcharge, so there’s no point in saving your glasses. You drop them in a recycle bin on your way out, which means you paid $1 an hour to rent plastic.
I’ve done this about half a dozen times in the last year, and I never said, “I’m glad I paid more to watch that in 3D.”
My brother has six kids, so he has to be smart with his money. The theater where he lives charges $9.50 for adults, $6.50 for kids and $3.50 for 3D upcharges. That’s $86 before concessions. The only saving grace is that he’s in a big enough city that the theater offers popular movies in 2D, so he can decline the $28 in upcharges.
Where theaters offer 2D and 3D, the “Tide” is turning against 3D. This weekend, Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” opened to a $90 million weekend. Less than half of that audience chose 3D, even though many theaters don’t offer 2D.
When I visited Disney World in 2007, my favorite feature was the 1991 “Muppet*Vision 3-D,” a short that holds its own against today’s 3D films. Every day that movie remains a popular fixture at the park, it undercuts the argument from studios — including Disney — that today’s 3D technology is groundbreaking.
I know it hurts theaters that are forced to carry 3D, but sometimes the middle man is the customer’s only messenger. If a movie’s available in 2D, I’ll get in line, and I’ll likely buy concessions in excess of any 3D upcharge. They can send that message, too.
The 3D is a lot like that Clark Bar —a small investment in the customer pays huge dividends. Let’s see how long it takes Hollywood to get that picture.