Why are so many movies in 3-D?

3-D 'Round the World
The 3-D release of "Titanic" in 2012 has earned the movie an extra $944 million worldwide with the help of booming foreign markets like China.
The 3-D release of "Titanic" in 2012 has earned the movie an extra $944 million worldwide with the help of booming foreign markets like China.
Andres Hernandez/Liaison/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The United States is the world's biggest movie market -- for now. Emerging markets like China and Russia are quickly building steam and capturing the attention of moviemakers who are eager to increase ticket sales. While the 3-D craze may have ended in the United States for the majority of films, the demand for 3-D movies is hotter than ever overseas.

In 2014, 3-D accounts for 40 percent of U.S. ticket sales; around the world, that number is closer to 60 percent [source: Lam]. To meet demand for this technology, theater owners are adding 3-D screens throughout countries such as China, Brazil and Japan at a frantic pace.

The MPAA estimates that the number of digital 3-D screens in the United States grew from 3,548 in 2009 to 15,782 in 2013. While these numbers may seem impressive, they pale in comparison to some foreign markets. The number of 3-D screens in the Asia-Pacific market grew from 1,584 to 17,726 over the same period, which means that 57 percent of digital screens in the region are designed for 3-D viewing, compared to just 40 percent of digital screens in the U.S.

In Latin America, the growth is just as impressive, as the number of 3-D screens increased from just 362 in 2009 to 3,748 in 2013. Thanks to demand for 3-D viewing, 51 percent of all digital screens in this market are designed for 3-D showings [source: MPAA].

Even as U.S. theatergoers eschew 3-D in favor of more traditional -- and cheaper -- films, the insatiable overseas appetite for anything 3-D means the technology is here to stay, and top studios continue to seek more ticket sales in their quest for box office glory.

Related Articles


  • Cheng, Roger. "Why 3-D Movies Are a Waste of Money." CNET. June 27, 2012. (Aug. 22, 2014) http://www.cnet.com/news/why-3d-movies-are-a-waste-of-money/
  • Lam, Eric. "Imax CEO Sees $1 Billion Box Office On China." Bloomberg. Sept. 12, 2013. (Aug. 22, 2014) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-12/imax-ceo-sees-1-billion-box-office-on-china.html
  • Lang, Brent. "Gravity Represents Turning Point for 3-D at the Box Office, Analyst Says." The Wrap. Oct. 7, 2013. (Aug. 22, 2014) http://www.thewrap.com/gravity-represents-turning-point-3d-box-office-analyst-says/
  • Lieberman, David. "2014 Box Office Will be Hurt by Diminishing Popularity of 3-D Movies: Analyst." Deadline. Feb. 3, 2014. (Aug. 22, 2014) http://deadline.com/2014/02/2014-box-office-will-be-hurt-by-diminishing-popularity-of-3d-movies-analyst-676253/
  • Mendelson, Scott. "How to Save 3-D Movies? Take Away 2D Theaters, Of Course!" Forbes. September 27, 2013. (Aug. 22, 2014) http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2013/09/27/how-to-save-3d-movies-take-away-2d-theaters-of-course/
  • Motion Picture Association of America. "Theatrical Market Statistics 2013." 2014. (Aug. 22, 2014) http://www.mpaa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/MPAA-Theatrical-Market-Statistics-2013_032514-v2.pdf
  • Smith, Grady. "Is the 3-D Fad Over?" Entertainment Weekly. Aug. 9, 2013. (Aug. 22, 2014) http://www.ew.com/article/2013/08/09/3d-movies-box-office