There’s nothing wrong with 3D movies that can’t be fixed if directors pay more attention to details in the productions, studios do more to promote them, and theaters offer them on additional screens. At least that’s the way RealD CFO Drew Skarupa described things in his appearance today at the MKM Partners Investor Day Conference. The 3D technology company has been in Wall Street’s dog house lately as the percentage of box office sales for 3D films has declined. The format accounts for about 33% of domestic sales for films that offer the option, down from 43% last year; elsewhere the take rate has fallen to 47% from 61%. Skarupa acknowledges that some 3D films don’t take full advantage of the extra dimension, usually because they’re converted to 3D after being shot in 2D. Although “conversions have gotten better and better,” they aren’t as good as films shot in 3D. For example Warner Bros’ upcoming Gravity is “a must-see in 3D. It’s a made-for 3D movie.” But persuading filmmakers to change will be “an evolution. It’s not going to happen overnight.” RealD is trying to help by advising some directors and “giving them ideas about the shot.” Meanwhile the company wants studios to step up their marketing — it has “come down a bit.” And theaters need to “increase those [3D] show times” especially on weekend evenings. RealD’s exit surveys found that about 25% of movie-goers love 3D, and an equal number dislike it. The remaining 50% “we call the swing vote, it’s heavily influenced by showtime and marketing…It’s important for us to focus on that 50%.”
RealD’s struggles with theaters pale next to its battle to introduce 3D on TV. That effort is now “a restart” built on offering the experience without special eyewear. “Glasses don’t work in the home. You have too many multitasking things.” Content producers also have to step up. Aside from some sports events “the industry isn’t there yet….You can’t just build a device and expect people to come without the content.” RealD hopes to break through by offering glasses-free 3D on smartphones and tablets. “You have that ah-ha moment.” And non-traditional players, such as Google, might join in creating content. How long will it take before this becomes a real business? RealD is “not providing any guidance on timetables,” Skarupa says.
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