3D films a gimmick

Adam McDonnellAssociate Director of Political and Social Research
September 26, 2011, 2:00 PM UTC

British cinemagoers are divided on their opinion of 3D films, but feel an apparent lack of enthusiasm towards this viewing experience that has re-entered the film industry in the last few years. Only around one in five British cinemagoers feels 3D improves the cinema experience, our recent poll has found, while almost half felt it either made no difference to the experience, or even made it worse.

  • 22% of British cinema goers feel that 3D cinema improves the cinema experience
  • 47% either thought 3D made no difference, or made it worse
  • Just 19% feel that 3D improves the quality of a film
  • But 41% think that 3D is just a gimmick
  • When asked whether they would be more likely to see a film in 3D or 2D, if it was being shown in both formats, at the same time and for the same price, under half (47%) said they would choose to see the film in 3D
  • Less than two in five (37%) said they would view it in 2D
  • In most cinemas it costs more to watch a film in 3D than in 2D, but our poll shows that over a third of people would choose to see a film in 2D, even if it was the same price to see it in 3D
  • While just under half (48%) of British cinema goers would not pay any more money to see a film in 3D instead of 2D
  • 49% of those polled agreed with the statement that the hype about 3D films was a phase that would pass

Many of this year’s big blockbusters, such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, have been produced using 3D technology. These three films have topped the 2011 box office grossing records so far, currently holding the first, second and third place respectively.

The impact of 3D technology

Our poll suggests, however, that the British public may not have flocked to films such as these because of their new 3D look The results imply that despite many 3D films bringing in the big crowds, their success may not be down to the 3D technology itself, but possibly due to other reasons such as advertising, branding or the quality of the film.

3D technology has been around for over a century with the first cinema screening in 3D taking place in 1915. Since then 3D has been used in many films, peaking in popularity at various time periods, but never become the sole viewing format. Cinemagoers don’t think that 3D technology is going to disappear too soon however, with only 16% of people thinking that no films will be shown in 3D in five years’ time.

3D glasses: ‘very unpopular’

A major part of the 3D experience has been the glasses required to be worn by viewers. Whether they’re the red/blue colour filter glasses worn by viewers of 1980s 3D cinema, or the transparent glasses that are currently being used, they have been an essential accessory to 3D viewing since its beginning. The glasses are very unpopular with British cinema goers however, with a majority of 52% saying they would be more likely to see a 3D film if they didn’t have to wear them. 40% said it wouldn’t affect their decision but only 4% said they would be less likely to see a 3D film if they didn’t need to wear the glasses.

Despite the public’s suggested indifference towards 3D, it seems here to stay, for the time being anyway, amid moves to introduce it into the world of television, computing and mobile phones, and plans in the pipeline to remaster popular older films into 3D such as Titanic and the Star Wars series.