Thursday, November 3, 2011

Disney’s “Lion King 3D” could help usher in strong US Blu-ray 3D sales for holidays

EL SEGUNDO, USA: Disney’s “Lion King 3D” is one of a handful of key new releases from Hollywood studios that will help drive the high-definition Blu-ray 3D (BD3D) format into US homes this holiday season, according to an IHS Screen Digest Video Intelligence Market Monitor report.

“Lion King 3D,” released October 4, is just one of 64 BD3D movies released in the United States this year, compared to 37 last year. This means that by the time of the holidays, more than 100 titles in the BD3D format will be present in US retail channels. From the time the BD3D market launched domestically in June last year, the flow of BD3D releases has remained fairly steady at approximately 25 titles every six months.

Despite only a limited catalog of film titles to offer its audience compared to other types of movie discs, the US BD3D market is set for an eightfold increase in sales in 2011 and strong growth in the following years. All told, the number of BD3D titles bought by US consumers is projected to reach almost 4.5 million units at the end of 2011, up from just 500,000 units in 2010 when BD3D first appeared, observed Tony Gunnarsson, video analyst for IHS.

“While BD3D will remain a relatively small part of overall Blu-ray sales, prospects remain bullish for the BD3D format,” said Gunnarsson. “The growth in BD3D sales is being driven not only by the expanding number of US households equipped with 3-D TVs and 3-D Blu-ray Disc players, but also by the increasing number of BD3D titles available on US retail store shelves.”

BD3D retail sales are anticipated to more than double in 2012, and high double-digit growth in the years ahead will ensue. By 2015, more than 25 million BD3D units are projected to be sold annually in the United States alone, as shown by the figure attached.

Disney has most BD3D titles
The October 4 release of “Lion King 3D” and another new 3-D version of a 2-D classic, “Beauty and the Beast,” kicked off a run of no fewer than 10 BD3D releases from Disney in the last three months of the year. This means the studio will have 19 BD3D titles in its catalog by year-end, including the entire “Toy Story” trilogy and “Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides.”

The “Lion King” title has been a huge success for Disney: 17 years after netting $312.9 million in its initial 1994 box-office run, the movie reprised its success andgrossed another $92.8 million in theaters for its 2-D to 3-D conversion—with 92 percent of the new revenue coming from 3-D screens.

While the total number of BD3D releases is considerably higher this year compared to 2010, the number of titles bundled exclusively with 3-D hardware has been falling steadily. Because titles bundled this way are not available to the public at large, the fall in the number of exclusively bundled titles is a boon for the wider BD3D market, Gunnarsson added.

To be sure, “Avatar”—the most popular 3-D movie of all time—remains available on BD3D only to purchasers of 3-D hardware from Panasonic. But among this year’s entire crop of releases, only “Megamind” from Dreamworks Animations chose to go down the exclusive bundling route, joining the same studio’s “Shrek” franchise in a deal with Samsung.

Warner’s final “Harry Potter” installment—“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” — will be bundled with Sony 3-D hardware on its release in November, but the title also will be available at retail, albeit initially only through Best Buy stores.

Live-action films to dominate overall 2011 slate
Animation—often perceived to dominate the slate of new 3-D titles—accounted for 20 of the 37 BD3D titles released last year. The pendulum in 2011 is swinging in favor of live-action films, however, with the number of animated BD3D titles released remaining stable at 20, while the number of live-action BD3D releases doubles to 44.

Among live-action movies, IMAX documentaries make up the most dominant single genre, accounting for 19 titles. But if the action, adventure-horror and sci-fi genres were all combined into a single special-effects-laden category, the merged category would account for a total of 27 titles. In comparison, just five live-action titles (including “Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides”) fall into the family/drama category.

Disney’s 19 BD3D titles include 15 animated titles to date plus four live-action movies, while the next most prolific studios, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures, will have released just four animated titles each from their cumulative BD3D slates of 14 and 11 titles, respectively.

In all, the number of BD3D titles being released remains small compared to the 135 titles delivered on the original Blu-ray Disc (BD) format during the BD launch year in the United States in 2006, and to the 295 BD titles that came the following year in 2007.

Unlike 2D Blu-ray, however, BD3D does not have access to the same depth of catalog. Movies being considered for release on the high-definition BD format could draw on the entire theatrical movie catalog—as well as on a growing list of dedicated movies, TV series and documentaries shot in high definition. In contrast, BD3D is restricted to titles filmed in native 3-D, or to those, like “The Lion King,” produced in 2-D and subsequently converted into 3-D—a combined category that so far amounts to no more than 100 theatrical movies plus the IMAX catalog, IHS estimates.

With such restrictions, BD3D is likely to remain a niche product for the foreseeable future—albeit one that should continue to be able to command a premium price, Gunnarsson observed. Meanwhile, 3-D-capable households in the United States will continue to grow in number, and retail shelves also can expect increased BD3D availability in the future.

Among the current list of available BD3D titles in the United States in addition to those mentioned above are “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Thor,” “Sanctum”, “Priest,” “Green Lantern,” “Captain America,” “Tron Legacy,” and “Drive Angry.”

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