Posted on Friday, September 18th, 2009 by Russ Fischer
UPDATE: One of the quotes I used has been pulled out of the article by Variety; I’ve noted it below.
The following is something Dreamworks head Jeffrey Katzenberg may or may not have said in his 3D Summit keynote (I don’t have a full transcript): 3D helps filmmakers tell better stories. But this is what Katzenberg did say: we know people will pay even more for this, and you’re not charging enough for 3D. Still have any illusions that the push toward 3D has any goal other than making money for studios?
Granted, Katzenberg is an exec. It’s his job to make money, and his job to drum up support for plans that will put coin in his coffers. So a statement like this isn’t too surprising:
The consumer has shown now time and time again not just a willingness but an aggressive ambition to trade up for a premium experience. There’s been zero price resistance, in the worst economy in our lifetime. And as the economy changes and improves, that’s only going to continue to grow….The research we’ve done everywhere in the world said the consumer said they got a valuable experience at a $5 premium. And nobody has done a $5 premium.
EDIT: Only the first line of that quote above now appears in the original Variety source article. Did he not actually say the rest of that quote, which I originally pulled from the article and is also quoted here, or are they simply no longer reporting those statements?
Translation: 3D tickets should be $15. Or more, if you already live in a high-priced market. According to Katzenberg’s math, seeing a film in 3D on Friday night at Lincoln Center should cost $17.50. Variety (which sponsored this year’s 3D Entertainment Summit) also quotes Katzenberg insisting that more movies be made in 3D. Again, his argument is all based on the bottom line:
In a business where margins are sinking like a stone in water, suddenly something comes along that for a small incremental investment you create huge incremental income possibilities for you. Why every studio isn’t out making three, four, five 3D movies is inexplicable.
There are a few sides to this argument. If, as Katzenberg asserts, 3D can truly help people rediscover the theatre-going experience, then we might all win. Because audiences will likely come for 3D and also patronize more flat films. And more revenue to theatres could help create a better public movie experience for everyone. If that’s 3D’s role, great. I can accept that.
But given his own leanings, Katzenberg’s insistence that 3D isn’t a gimmick rings hollow to me. In a separate interview with Variety, he talks about exit polling after Monsters vs. Aliens (the film, remember, that may generate a non-3D TV show, but didn’t do well enough to warrant a sequel) and says “88% of people who saw the movie in 3D and paid a premium for the experience said they enjoyed the experience and it was better than they thought it was going to be.” The obvious follow-up question there is: did the people think it was going to truly suck going in? “Better than anticipated” (Katzenberg’s actual words) hardly adds up to a cinematic revolution, and doesn’t come close to justifying another five bucks per ticket.