3-D movies have failed to bring in big audiences this quarter, partly causing overall movie attendance to fall. At least one analyst is forecasting that U.S. box-office sales will fall 12% in the fourth quarter, mainly due to lower-than-expected attendance for 3-D movies like Gulliver's Travels.

Higher ticket prices for 3-D films -- which cost an average of $10.25, or $3.25 more than a conventional $7 movie ticket -- likely dissuaded many potential moviegoers, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield wrote in a note to clients Monday. The 3-D glasses, which can be a nuisance for families with young children and give some people headaches, also hurt attendance, notes Greenfield, who added that recent results merely extend a yearlong trend.

And for the most part, the quality of the 3-D movies that came out this quarter failed to wow audiences as well. "While the horror and gross-out comedy genres may benefit from 3-D (think Saw 3-D or Jackass 3-D), the vast majority of 3-D movies this year have been disappointing at best (the exceptions being Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me)," Greenfield writes.

High Hopes Dashed

After the late 2009 release of Avatar, cinemas had hoped that 3-D movies would boost box-office figures this year. Fox's Avatar set all-time box-office records, both domestically and globally, with $2.78 billion in revenue worldwide and $760 million in the U.S., according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. About 80% of Avatar's U.S. box-office sales came from 3-D showings, according to trade group National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO).

But that high demand failed to carry over to most other 3-D movie titles this year, and the lack of interest has spread to the living room as well. Makers of 3-D televisions have cut prices by more than 40% on some models during the holiday season. Meanwhile, research firm DisplaySearch in October lowered its 3-D TV shipment projections to 1.6 million in North America for this year from its previous forecast of more than 2 million in the summer.

Such lackluster sales have been a huge disappointment for the industry, which rolled out a plethora of 3-D sets at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.

With theater attendance down, Greenfield cut his fourth-quarter earnings forecast for movie-theater company Regal Entertainment Group (RGC) by about 40% and maintained his "sell" rating on the stock.

Regal shares fell 1.6% to close at $11.95 in New York Stock Exchange trading on Monday.

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For anyone who has had to pay those exhorbitant theatre prices for regualr movies, and then be attacked by the outraqgeous 3D pricing it's no wonder attendance is below expectation. Here's a note to the Geniuses who have priced these movies THERE'S A RECESSION, wise up!

December 29 2010 at 11:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mr. King: As you know, 3-D films are not a new idea. After the initial impact and excitement, I wonder if humans may not begin to have some unconscious dislike for the genre.

December 28 2010 at 3:53 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply