Following the success of Avatar, studios were tripping over themselves to release their movies in 3D. The technology was new, James Cameron had shown that it could be used effectively, and, more importantly, theaters could charge more for it. Unfortunately, the product rarely lived up to the tech. Even when studios finally figured out how to do solid 3D post-conversions, the appeal was wearing off. Every tentpole was in 3D, but audiences were losing interest because for every Gravity or Hugo, there were 20 other movies where the 3D didn’t improve the experience. While tentpole movies are still getting 3D post-conversions, it’s clear that at least American audiences think that 2D is just fine.
And IMAX is listening. According to THR, IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond says they “will play more digital 2D versions of Hollywood movies domestically, given a ‘clear preference’ from consumers for 2D in North America.” Currently, Dunkirk is only playing in IMAX 2D, and it did quite well this weekend. While you could argue that’s Christopher Nolan using his power to make sure his movie isn’t forced into 3D, IMAX also revealed that when it shows Blade Runner 2049 this October, those screenings will be in 2D only.
IMAX will also be showing preference to movies that use their cameras. Movies that have been converted into IMAX will be getting one-week only showings in order for IMAX to show more movies, but films that were shot in IMAX like Dunkirk and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War will receive longer runs.
Personally, I think this is the smart way to go. Speaking from experience, when I go to press screenings now, fewer and fewer are shown in 3D, and it’s clear across the board that 3D hasn’t really taken off. When you go to buy a new TV, the selling point isn’t that they’re in 3D (most new models aren’t), but rather that they’re 4K. People would rather have a better-quality image than stuff coming out the screen. While I don’t think 3D is totally dead, especially since it continues to do well overseas, I’m glad that we’re returning more to 2D. If there are filmmakers who want to actually use 3D rather that studios looking to make a quick buck, the technology will still be there.