The upcoming James Cameron-produced blockbuster Alita: Battle Angel will be released with the intention of maximizing a 3D audience. For domestic IMAX locations, there won’t be any IMAX 2D screenings available. Further, Dolby Cinemas will present the film in 3D, something which is very rare for that premium format.
A domestic IMAX 3D-only distribution is especially surprising as just in 2017, IMAX had planned to move away from 3D releases and even commit to some 2D-only runs.
Currently, TV Spots market the film as “the must-see cinematic 3D event of the year” as well as “the ultimate IMAX 3D event of the year”. In the United States, where 3D has become increasingly less popular with moviegoers, that is highly unusual.
James Cameron, whose 2009 hit Avatar was a pillar of its rise, has indeed been trying to maintain 3D during its downtimes. In 2017, he rereleased the original Terminator 2: Judgement Day in the format. That would turn out to be the last such 3D rerelease, years after movies such as The Lion King and Titanic grossed tens of millions being rereleased that way during 3D’s prime years from 2009 to 2012.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day‘s 3D rerelease only grossed a little less than four million dollars worldwide, compared to the over four hundred and forty million Titanic made with its 3D rerelease back in 2012. Given the millions it can cost to post-convert a film, such rereleases simply made little financial sense anymore.
A majority of Terminator 2‘s 3D revenue, almost three million, came from overseas markets where 3D has been performing significantly better than in the United States. “In 2017, global 3D sales hit $8 billion for the third year in a row, with overseas markets contributing 83 percent of that total,” according to Jeremy Fuster from The Wrap. “As new cineplexes in developing markets open, the appeal of seeing a film in 3D is far greater than in the U.S., which got saturated in 2010 with 3D films and home technology.”
Nowadays, many domestic multiplexes tend to grant one auditorium for 3D showtimes and multiple to 2D ones. After a few weeks into an original run, it is highly unlikely to find a U.S. theater still playing a title in 3D.
Alita: Battle Angel has around 40 minutes of footage shot with IMAX 3D cameras. The film was shot in “native 3D”, according to its director Robert Rodriguez who calls himself a “huge 3D proponent”. Other filmmakers such as James Wan and Chris Miller have embraced the 3D for their films, while stating that they generally weren’t fans of it.
I’m not the biggest fan of 3D (because I hate wearing glasses on top of glasses), but the 3D for Aquaman is fantastic. The visual/world feels truly layered and dimensional. The Trench sequence alone is something to behold. The 3D dept did an amazing job. https://t.co/tnzXdDaxiv— James Wan (@creepypuppet) December 21, 2018
Who knows: maybe James Cameron’s Alita and his upcoming Avatar sequels will indeed have the domestic marketing necessary to bring back some love for 3D among U.S. audiences.
Image: 20th Century Fox.