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Movies Like ‘The Martian,’ ‘The Walk’ Will Be Important for 3D, Says RealD Chief

“Jurassic World,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and other summer blockbusters are helping to rejuvenate 3D ticket sales, RealD’s Anthony Marcoly claims.

The 3D maker’s newly installed president of worldwide cinema believes that studios having figured out the formula for what makes a movie work in the format. He’s predicting that those rose tinted glasses are due for a revival after poorly received 3D offerings like 2010’s “Clash of the Titans” made the extra dimensionality look more like a cash grab than a bold new cinematic experience.

In truth, some of these gains can be traced back to “Gravity,” which recaptured the magic that audiences felt when they saw James Cameron’s “Avatar.” That goodwill translated into strong results for films like “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Godzilla” last summer, and the trend appear to be continuing with the current crop of tentpole releases.

Marcoly, who joined RealD in January after holding international distribution posts at Disney and Paramount, made his case to Variety recently for why he thinks 3D’s fortunes are on the rise.

What’s been your main priority since taking the reins at RealD?

From my perspective, it seemed like 3D fell off the radar. Nobody was talking about it, good or bad, any longer. It was old news.

But 3D is still here and alive and kicking and studios have learned some lessons. If you go back four or five years, 3D was seen as a savior for the business and everybody was converting movies into 3D, so they could get an upcharge. They couldn’t help themselves. There were some movies where the audience went was that 3D or not? There was just a bad vibe.

So what did studios learn from these mistakes?

They learned 3D is not for every movie. For movies that you need to immerse yourself in, and “Jurassic World” is a great example of this, it really works. “Mad Max: Fury Road” did great in 3D. “San Andreas” is doing very well. Action oriented movies on a conceptual level just lend themselves better to it.

One of the things I’ve trying to do is I’ve been going out and meeting with filmmakers. I’ve been asking them what do they want to do and how can we help you accomplish that goal?

Was any of the downturn in 3D related to the recession?

There could be a little of that. I still think that even three or four years ago, when the economy was worse, people were willing to pay the premium if they felt they were getting a premium experience. The problem was they didn’t see a difference. If you’re going to make a film in 3D, you’ve got to do it right.

Beyond the films themselves, what is being done to bolster ticket sales?

To do big business you need to actively and aggressively promote movies in 3D and you need to make sure you’re programming them correctly. We had four movies this summer that all opened with more than 40% of their ticket sales coming from 3D. We haven’t seen that in a long time. It was getting down in the high 20% range and the low 30s.

What do you mean by proper programming? Had they stopped showing films in 3D?

They were giving them showtimes, but 3D showings were the 1:00, the 2:00, the 3:00 show. We’d get the 5 p.m. show or the 11 p.m. show. Now we’re getting primetime slots. There’s more of a dialogue going back and forth and everybody is starting to trust one another again. They realize that if we give them great movies in 3D, they need to promote them and program then, and then we will all prosper.

It seems like the 3D movies this fall are very different than the kind of action movies you were talking about. Is that true?

Absolutely. As we move into the fall, you’re going to have “Everest,” which is a very different kind of action movie than the summer films. You have “The Walk” from Robert Zemeckis, who has always been a great 3D advocate. And you have “The Martian” from Ridley Scott, which has pieces of “Cast Away” and “Gravity.”

They’re not big action movies, but they’re using 3D to immerse viewers in the storytelling and to give filmmakers another tool. I’d liken it to what you saw with “Life of Pi.”

Are you finding that filmmakers are more willing to make movies in 3D?

I don’t know about that. All of the really prolific ones have used it. Scorsese has done one. I know Ridley Scott has talked about never doing another movie that’s not in 3D. But it’s a great storytelling method and more and more I’d like to see adult-oriented movies use it to bring in another segment of the audience who might not have seen a 3D movie before.

Some directors think it may be gimmicky. That it’s only used to make stuff jump out of the screen. But it’s not about the eye-popping stuff. The good filmmakers use it to draw you in and make their film more impactful.

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