The Biggest 3D Blockbusters of 2012

Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
May 3rd, 2012

The Biggest 3D Blockbusters of 2012

--The advent of 3D movies changed the way people thought about films. The first 3D films hit theaters in the 1950s, but the popularity of those films slowly declined. These movies made a comeback in the mid-2000s, due to films like "The Polar Express." The problem was that theaters needed special equipment to show 3D films, and many theaters did not have that equipment. "The Polar Express" still managed to make more than $182 million at the box office. By the end of the decade, more theaters began showing 3D films, which helped increase the profitability of 3D movies.

The highest grossing 3D movie of all time is the James Cameron epic "Avatar." Numerous websites, magazines, and newspapers listed the movie as one of the best of the year. People flocked to the theaters in droves, and some people saw the movie multiple times in the theater. "Avatar" showed movie studios that movie lovers would pay extra for the 3D experience, which led to an onslaught of 3D movies. "Drive Angry," "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie," "Shark Night," and "Piranha 3D" quickly followed.

In the last year, Hollywood directors and producers released multiple 3D movies. Many of these movies arrived in both ordinary theaters and theaters with 3D equipment. This gave fans the choice to pay extra for the 3D experience or watch the movie on a regular screen. Despite giving fans this option, some films saw the 3D version ranking higher in box office revenue than the 2D version.

When it comes to movies, few beat the popularity of the Harry Potter movies. The highest grossing 3D movie of the past year was "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2." The film brought in more than $169 million on its opening weekend alone. By the time the movie left theaters, it had made more than $381 million. The film now ranks on the list of the highest grossing movies of all time.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2" is an interesting case though because it's high gross might relate to its subject matter. A standalone movie must typically survive on advertising, word of mouth, and the reviews of experts. However, this movie hit theaters with a solid fan base already in place. The first movie in the franchise, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," grossed $317 million, and the movies that followed grossed a higher amount each time.

The popularity of the first movie was dependent upon fans of the book series. Fans wanted to see the characters they knew and loved on the big screen. The filmmakers remained true to the book, which led to fans seeing the movie several times in the theater. With traditional movies, if the movie does well at the box office, the studio might consider a sequel. With the Harry Potter franchise, the studio knew that it had a set number of movies it could make. Once the studio finished with the novels, the Harry Potter series was done.

Fans noted that the films tended to gloss over important parts of the books, and the studio responded by breaking the last novel into two movies. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1" took fans on a journey leading up to the last movie. By the time "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2" landed in theaters, fans eagerly awaited the end to the series. Fans lined up in droves to purchase advance tickets to the earliest screenings of the movie. Those same fans waited hours in line, just because they wanted good seats for the movie.

The popularity of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2" might relate to the popularity of the movie franchise and not the movie itself. This becomes clear when examining the other top grossing 3D movies of the last year. Second on the list is "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," which grossed more than $350 million. This movie was the third in the Transformers franchise, and some reports indicated that it was the last movie in the series. "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" was the fourth movie in its series, and it grossed more than $240 million at the box office. Even "Cars 2" grossed nearly $200 million, despite bad reviews.

The only 3D movie from the last year that grossed more than $200 million was "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," though "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" came close. These movies had a built-in fan base that might show 3D movies are only popular if the fans would see the movie in other formats. The fans paying extra money for 3D films are the same fans who would see the movies on ordinary screens. With the popularity of 3D movies, it is clear that Hollywood will continue releasing movies in this format in the future.