Lack of 3-D Theaters Looks to Dent the Box-office Potential of Monsters vs. Aliens

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Photo: Photo-illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: istockphoto, Courtesy of Paramount

Ever since DreamWorks Animation spent "tens of millions" of dollars on a poorly received 3-D commercial for Monsters vs. Aliens that aired during the Super Bowl, there has been a slightly acrid stench surrounding the film. For example, a few weekends back, during a Saturday-afternoon screening of Coraline at Manhattan's Ziegfield Theater that was packed to the gills with young children, we heard toddler-pitched groans and a distinct lack of laughter when its trailer played. Still, Dreamworks Animation (not to be confused with the other Dreamworks division that Steven Spielberg sold off to deep-pocketed Indian investors) is hoping that the bad buzz fades, as they are counting on the film to drive significant revenue for the company. Unfortunately for them, The Wrap is reporting that they might want to start revising their financial forecasts for the film, as fewer than half of the theaters that were supposed to be ready for digital 3-D projection will be ready by the movie’s release on March 27.

This news does not bode well, at least in the short term, for either Dreamworks or its 3-D-happy chief executive, one Jeffrey Katzenberg. While they have promised their investors that the film would open on over 2,000 3-D screens and that they'll look to these returns "to serve as a proof of concept and to propel the new format forward," these numbers are significantly short of their original expectations when the film was green-lit with a budget exceeding $165 million (and that's before marketing and P&A costs are factored in). Because, as anyone who shit their pants during My Bloody Valentine 3-D's opening weekend would attest, theaters charge moviegoers upwards of 20 percent more for a ticket to a 3-D movie than they do for regular old movies. You see, it turns out that the craptastic economy is preventing theaters from making the investment to re-equip their theaters with projection equipment capable of delivering a high-quality, digital 3-D experience.

However, no matter if Monsters vs. Aliens ends up as a massive flop or a huge hit, we here at Vulture implore theatergoers to do whatever it takes to secure the investments necessary to get more 3-D screens available. Because, really, the last thing anyone needs at this point is to give James Cameron yet another excuse to delay the planned December release of Avatar again.

Financing Delays of 3D Conversion Will Hurt DreamWorks' Big-Budget Bet [Wrap]