The BBC have revealed that despite 2010′s U.K. cinema admissions being down by 2% on the previous year, the overall box office takings came in at £988 million; a whole 5% more than 2009.
With this growth being ascribed to the premium prices attributed to 3D tickets, BFI chief executive Anita Nevill is hopeful for the future of cinema in the U.K.
“The outlook for film is still generally positive with much to be optimistic about. There are still challenges to address and the BFI looks forward to working closely with the industry and with government to address these.”
Any celebration may be a little premature, however, with a number of sources noting that the 3D medium seems to be falling out of favour with the general public.
Whereas Toy Story and Alice in Wonderland might have constituted a hefty percentage of the U.K. box office, this year’s crop of 3D movies have been slightly less successful in theatres.
According to The Observer, Disney’s Mars Needs Moms grossed only $7 million on its opening weekend in the U.S., barely recouping any of its $175 million budget. Cinemablend, meanwhile, note that this year’s Kung Fu Panda constituted another considerable shift in consumer behaviour, with only 45% of the film’s opening weekend gross came from 3D sales (against 60% of Toy Story 3′s). This is even reflected in the stock market, with shares in RealD falling 12%.
Not that this is at all surprising. Opening hot on the heels of Avatar, a deeply immersive and genuinely jaw-dropping example of what the format can do, 2009 featured a steady stream of 3D features that effectively cashed in on James Cameron’s success with Avatar. It’s now 2011, however, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that the honeymoon period is over. Taken with a growing number of detractors and escalating cost of 3D tickets, a decrease in quality product has only served to propagate audience dissatisfaction.
As films continue to charge premium prices for a format that rarely delivers on the format’s full potential, the ineffective product of a hasty post-production conversion, there is less and less motivation to stump up the additional charge.
While this 5% rise in box office takings is of course good news for the U.K. film industry, such that it is, it is inevitably masking a decline that might not always have the safety net of 3D to fall back on.