March 29, 2023

Appeal of 3-D Wanes, but New Releases Are Still Planned

Are there any thrills left in what was supposed to be Hollywood’s medium of the future?

For some, George Clooney’s chin in Imax 3-D — digitally remastered for the large-format version of “Gravity,” due from Warner Brothers on Oct. 4 — might qualify. So it’s not over yet.

But in general, filmgoers in North America — having sampled three-dimensional viewing in films as breathtaking as “Avatar” and “Life of Pi,” — are drifting back to conventional theaters. That is happening despite an aggressive digital conversion program by exhibitors, who raised the number of domestic 3-D screens to almost 15,000 at the end of last year, more than four times the count in 2009.

This summer, films like “Turbo” and “The Wolverine” took in 30 percent or less of their opening weekend receipts from 3-D sales, compared with levels as high as 60 percent for summer films only a few years ago.

According to the IHS research firm, receipts from 3-D ticket sales at the North American box office fell 13.1 percent in the first half of 2013, to about $1.05 billion, from $1.21 billion in the year-earlier period. In another closely watched measure of the medium, RealD, which supplies 3-D technology to theaters both here and abroad, last week reported a net loss of $1.5 million in its fiscal first quarter ended June 30, compared with net income of $2.9 million in the year-earlier period. That happened as revenue dropped 13.1 percent, to about $59.2 million from about $68.2 million a year earlier.

Despite these numbers, Hollywood remains committed to at least five dozen 3-D movies through 2016, according to a recent count by Exhibitor Relations, a box-office consultant. And some of those films promise to create a fresh shiver, if not quite the same jolt that accompanied Baz Luhrmann’s garish, three-dimensional rendering this spring of “The Great Gatsby.”

In “Gravity,” which is directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Mr. Clooney joins Sandra Bullock in a cast of two (not counting disembodied voices). They play astronauts who find themselves adrift in space after a shuttle accident.

To approximate a tumble through the silent cosmos, the actors were photographed with specially designed robotic cameras that would race at 25 miles per hour to within an inch of a multimillion-dollar nose.

“If that robot did decide to continue through my face, I couldn’t get out of its way,” Ms. Bullock said last month during a presentation at the Comic-Con International fan convention in San Diego.

On Sept. 20, film purists may feel shock of another kind, when a much-loved classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” is released for an exclusive, one-week run on Imax screens in a 3-D version from Warner Brothers. Relatively few people now living have ever seen the 1939 film in a theater, never mind in three dimensions.

The mini-release will help promote a five-disc home video set, which includes a version playable on 3-D televisions. It is also part of an Imax strategy intended to create unusual events on its large-format screens during the late summer and early fall weeks when the blockbuster business has trailed off.

Thus, “Metallica Through the Never,” another unusual 3-D film, this one from Picturehouse, will have an exclusive one week-run in Imax theaters beginning Sept. 27.

Its novelty comes not just from the placement of cameras inside the heavy metal band’s perimeter during performances of a semi-violent concert-in-the-round, but also from an effort to bring sound — lots of it — into the equation.

“The audio is a massive contributor to the effect of 3-D,” said Greg Foster, a senior executive vice president for Imax Corporation.

Speaking by telephone recently, Mr. Foster said the future of movies in 3-D depends on the willingness of directors like Nimrod Antal, who made the Metallica film, to treat the medium and its potential with respect. “It all depends on the filmmakers being fully invested, and owning it,” Mr. Foster said.

One deeply invested filmmaker is Robert Redford, who is working on a subtler but no less intriguing project in 3-D. Mr. Redford is contributing one segment to an anthology-style documentary, “Cathedrals of Culture,” about various architectural masterpieces.

Overseen by Wim Wenders, whose contribution is a 3-D look at the architect Hans Scharoun’s Berlin Philharmonic Hall, the film is expected to appear both on television and in theaters sometime next year. Mr. Redford is directing a 26-minute examination of the Salk Institute’s mysteriously placid ocean-side campus, which was designed by Louis Kahn and built 50 years ago in La Jolla, Calif.

“Some people have said it’s a sacred place,” said Laura Michalchysyn, who is a producer of the project.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 11, 2013

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article described the image incorrectly. It was a stereographic image of American soldiers in World War I; it was not a negative.

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Media Decoder Blog: ‘Mary Poppins’ to Flit to New Zealand

Mary Poppins stars Ashley Brown as Mary and Gavin Lee as Bert.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesA “Mary Poppins” performance from 2006, starring Ashley Brown as Mary and Gavin Lee as Bert.

Can the bottom of the world sustain one of Disney’s megamusicals? “Mary Poppins” is about to find out.

Disney’s Broadway division has had hits like “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast” crisscrossing the globe for nearly two decades now, but New Zealand has never made the cut — too expensive a trip for too limited an audience. Until now: “Mary Poppins” will open at Auckland’s Civic Theater on Oct. 18, Disney said on Sunday (local time), and run for a hoped-for 10 weeks.

Several factors coaxed Thomas Schumacher, president of the Disney Theatrical Group, to take a flier on New Zealand. Ticket sales for “Mary Poppins” in nearby Australia greatly exceeded expectations. An Auckland production of “Jersey Boys” recently delivered solid results. Apparently, the Kiwi government even played a role. In a statement, the mayor of Auckland, Len Brown, praised local economic development groups for the work they did to “secure” the musical.

“We know that Aucklanders will love the chance to see this spectacular, and the show will attract many visitors to the region,” Mr. Brown said.

“Mary Poppins,” produced in collaboration with Cameron Mackintosh and still running on Broadway (and touring elsewhere in the world), has sold over $679 million in tickets since its premiere in London in 2004.

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Bits: Facebook Promotes Social E-Commerce

No one wants to go concerts or sports events alone.

So its not surprising that when Facebook users see that their friends are going to an event, they’re more likely to go too. What’s more surprising, perhaps, is how much more likely.

Facebook said Wednesday that every time a user posted on their news feed that they bought a ticket from TicketMaster, friends spent an additional $5.30 on TicketMaster (presumably for the same event). At Eventbrite, a social site for selling tickets to lesser known events, every link shared on Facebook generated $2.52 in ticket sales, Facebook said.

Facebook has long promoted the value of such social ads, saying that word of mouth from friends is more valuable for users and marketers alike than generic marketing messages. The company now says that, similarly, e-commerce sites are increasingly benefiting from tying their services into the Facebook platform. In other words, Facebook says a purchase shared on Facebook generates more purchases from friends.

“We now have a direct link between sharing on Facebook and revenue generation at e-commerce sites,” said Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships and platform marketing at Facebook. Mr. Rose said that 18 of the top 25 e-commerce sites are using Facebook features like Facebook Connect or the “Like” button., a shopping site for outdoor gear, saw a doubling in revenue generate from Facebook within two weeks of adding the Like button, Facebook said. American Eagle saw users referred by Facebook spend 57 percent more than average on the site, Facebook said.

Of course, what’s good for commerce sites that embrace social features is also good for Facebook, even if the company doesn’t charge sites for using those features. That’s because sites that use Facebook heavily also tend to advertise on Facebook.

“Our most successful advertisers are marketing Web sites or applications that have already integrated the Facebook platform,” Mr. Rose said. “If TicketMaster does well on Facebook, they will spend money on Facebook.”

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