Is 3D the New 2D?

Back before Avatar came out and rewrote the record books, there was a time when people still weren’t convinced that 3D was the future of cinema. Now though, you have to wonder: Will 2D become the outlier, reserved for indies and costume dramas? Because the way things are shaping up here in 2010, if you’re releasing a blockbuster that isn’t in 3D, you might as well stay home.

Consider that when Clash of the Titans came out in the spring, it was reviled and disliked my mostly everyone, and still ranks as one of the five biggest hits of the year thus far. On the flipside, there’s Knight and Day, which Twentieth Century Fox is having such a hard time selling to audiences that they’re basically resorted to begging at this point; today the studio will release a free clip to iTunes, hoping it will accomplish what the trailers cannot: Make people want to go. Granted there are other issues at play here, but if Knight and Day had the added sheen of 3D, perhaps this would all be a moot point. Hey, it worked for Clash of the Titans.

There is more than just the “new!” factor to 3D though for studios — there’s the money, of course. The average price for a 3D ticket can run upwards of $17. And you wonder why 4 of the 5 biggest box office hits in 2010 have been released in 3D, and the only film on the list that wasn’t (Iron Man 2), probably wishes it was. (There’s a good chance Paramount left $50 million on the table by not converting Tony Stark to three dimensions.) 3D has become a way for studios and theater owners to charge more for their product without having to go through the PR nightmare of raising ticket prices in a bad economy. It’s a loophole that even Bernie Madoff would find impressive.

Naturally there is some fear that “3D fatigue” is setting in, but if Hollywood only releases blockbusters in 3D, will that matter? Judging from the upcoming slate of 3D releases, of which there are many, probably not. Is 3D the New 2D?