Saturday, April 10, 2010

Katzenberg On The 3D Sophomore Slump?

Jeffrey Katzenberg is repeating history, almost 20 years later.
His "sophomore slump" memorandum. which was one of the first pieces of internal Hollywood industry correspondence published by a media outlet without authorization - in Variety, though there is no trace of it from searching their website and we are still working on finding a full copy of the memo from 1991 - was all about how the high concept studio that he and Eisner perfected in resurrecting Disney was about to become bastardized, overused, overspent, and devalued.

 He was dead on.

And now, in Variety - yes, they can still get a studio head to do an interview between blog leaks - he is at it again. And I am quite sure that he is right again.

" We are asking the moviegoers to pay a 50 percent premium to come see these films. So I think (there will be a) backlash. It will be a whiplash. They will walk away from this so fast."

Yeah. 50% isn't true, but close enough.

Now, I have to call bullshit on JK a little. He seems to be suggesting that since he built this thing - and only Jim Cameron's fingerprints are as firmly connected to Nouveau-3D - that he should be allowed to decide who gets to milk the cash cow.

He beneficently gives Alice in Wonderland a pass... buying into the spin that Tim Burton designed a second of it for 3D... but Clash of the Titans is just too much for him!

"the revenue (today) from a successful 3D release net to the studios is greater than the erosion in the DVD market over the last two years."

Yes... for that ONE film. But not for the industry overall. He runs a company now that is 3D Animation Only. His one or two films a year are clearly benefited. So studios that release 15 films a year need to back off so he can be safe generating his increased profitability?

The bottom line is that most big studio films are shit, have been shit, and will be shit. Alice wasn't any better because of 3D, whether it was shot for the projection system or not. There may be another movie which feels as good in 3D as Avatar again... though I would still argue that Avatar was no better in 3D than in 2D. But those movie experiences are few and far between.

"For the last four or five years, the raging debate here has been the inability of Hollywood to convince exhibition, because there's really nothing in it for exhibition. It doesn't change the economics of their business. They can't charge more for a digital experience. The thing that finally got everybody off the dime was when there was something in it for exhibition, which was 3D.

So now take that 3D out of the equation and you derail that (digital) train. And who's the biggest beneficiary of digital, of a full digital platform? Hollywood. So when you want to talk about the effect of actually blowing this, it's unbelievable."

Again... a bit of hyperbole. What got the theaters off the dime is that the studios finally agreed to pay most of the bill for the new projectors. Indeed, there are hundreds of millions and as much a $2 billion per year to be saved by studios by having digital exhibition. That train has left the station and is not coming back. It would make no sense for the studios to get in their own way.

For the first time in almost a decade admissions are way up. Almost all of it can be attributed to 3D. There's a reason to get out of the home and go back to the movies.

More spin. Almost all of it can be attributed to Twilight 2, The Hangover, The Blind Side, and Avatar.

That said, every $100 million domestic animated film other than The Princess & The Frog happens to have been in 3D. But if you look at 2008's $100m animated grossers, only one of which was 3D, they were less than 20% behind the average domestic gross of 2009's six animated $100m films.

Can anyone legitimately say that 3D was the difference? No. And has been pointed out, as discussed many times here, admissions is a blurry, blurry stat. Did admissions really go up a lot? I don't really know. What I do know is that there were 6 films that grossed over $200m domestic in 2008 and 10 in 2010. Is that 3D's fault?

I am convinced that there (is) a high road to take, and that it would produce the best opportunity to come along for our business in a decade. I'm even more convinced that if we take the low road, we'll be out of the 3D business in 12 months.

The "low road" is everyone jumping on the bandwagon. The "high road" is 10 films a year... without quality police. Keep the novelty. Keep the bonus pricing.

JK is dead right. This will blow up. It will sink. And not because this movie sucked or it was 2D conversion that was never meant to be 3D or whatever. 3D was the new fad in town this year. And as I have written before, the opportunity is being raped more quickly than I have seen any other phenom get raped. But when 3D matures... like IMAX... it is a niche' thing, not a new standard. And if the industry keeps acting as though it is some new standard, it will die like the dodo. And as Katzenberg says... it will happen faster than you can say, "DVD."

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