Have the Glee Kids Finally Killed 3D Movies?

A bust of an opening weekend raises questions about 3D releases.

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Glee came out with its first movie over the weekend, a big, shiny 3D spectacular of peppy concert fun, and despite having a built-in fan base being one of the most popular shows on television, the whole thing flopped. Popular movie metrics site Rotten Tomatoes calculated a 61 percent critical reception, and only a 69 percent audience rating. Metacritic calculated a 50 percent critic score, and an even lower 4.4 out of ten user score. The film didn't even land in the weekend's box office top ten, landing just outside at 11. The Glee kids were beaten by weeks-old box office juggernauts Captain America and Harry Potter, as well as bland romantic comedies Crazy, Stupid, Love. and The Change-Up. The movie didn't even break a $6 million opening weekend. Production for the movie only cost Fox $9 million, and as of Tuesday evening the movie still hasn't broke even. So with everything the movie had going for it, why was it such a huge bust?

The leading answer seems to be that movie audiences are getting savvier with their money. They aren't ponying up the extra bucks for a 3D movie just because it's in 3D anymore. "Audiences have said time and time again that what they're looking for, and what has been proven to have done well (in 3D) is action-adventure-fantasy movies," Vincent Bruzzese, president of the World Wide Motion Picture Group, told The Wrap. "There's a question of 'Why is this in 3D' and 'Why should I pay the extra price to see it?'"

Entertainment Weekly's Grady Smith offers a similar sentiment:

We can’t forget about the 3-D factor, either. Though the technology was certainly a draw for films like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, audiences have quickly cooled on the trend. These days, many films only earn about 40 percent of their opening weekend gross from 3-D ticket sales, when one year ago, that figure was usually closer to 80 percent. Some movies, like Final Destination 5, can still coerce audiences to pay the marked-up ticket price (the horror film earned 76 percent of its opening weekend gross from 3-D screens), but when movies like Glee use 3-D without a clear reason to do so, it can feel like a shameless cash grab. Moviegoers generally don’t like that.  

The low production budget was likely something Fox was hoping would lead to almost pure profits when the movie hit projectors, and now it barely seems like it was worth the time to produce. (It should be noted there's currently a stage show touring the country.) The most ugly next generation 3D flop has been, hands down, Disney's Mars Needs Moms. It did so poorly in its opening weekend that the New York Times' Brooks Barnes asked if the miss was, "so disastrous that they send signals to broad swaths of Hollywood." The movie cost Disney $175 million to make and market, and after it left theatres it has only recouped $39 million of its' costs. At the time, Barnes wrote this on consumer's 3D ticket habits:

While child tickets to traditional screenings run about $8.75 in large cities like New York and Los Angeles, child admission for 3-D screenings is $13. Imax charges $15.50 for children. Box-office analysts have been increasingly concerned that consumers in general and parents in particular are starting to rebel. “We believe exhibitors’ core strategy of raising ticket prices through 3-D premiums” is a “dangerous strategy,” Richard Greenfield, an analyst at the financial services company BTIG, wrote last Tuesday. 

Glee's 3D movie fiasco failed to heed the lesson Disney learned in March, and it may not cost monetarily (because of the low prodcution costs), but it isn't making them any money either. The only other 3D option that opened in theatres this weekend was the fifth installment of the Final Destination series. It couldn't even beat backlash sufferer Emma Stone's The Help. Harry Potter blew away the opening weekend record when it was released earlier this summer thanks to the number of 3D screens it was put out on, but it was expected to shatter records regardless. It was a sure thing. Glee wasn't expected to blow anyone away, just to make money. It couldn't even do that. From now on, hopefully, 3D production will either go away forever, or stick to the six remaining Chronicles of Narnia movies.

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