Executives from Warner Bros and Odeon have expressed the need to win back trust in 3D family films, while research shows China is set to lead the 3D market by the end of 2014.

“Our experience of how 3D is declining in this market is primarily in animation,” Neil Marshall, VP and deputy MD of Warner Bros Pictures International UK, told delegates at the 3D Creative Summit in London.

“If you look back at titles like Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me, I think they did around 75% and 60% respectively in 3D. Looking at today’s market, a title like Frozen is on around 25% and Despicable Me 2 around 27%.”

He added that Warner Bros action and event movies are holding steady with around 50% of the box office coming from 3D.

“We need to regain the trust and confidence in the family market,” stated Claire Beswick, senior film booker and head of IMAX programming for Odeon cinemas. “We’re turning a corner in terms of the economy and need to regain some of the ground we have lost.”

Beswick revealed that the cinema chain is looking to introduce an “Odeon Recommends 3D” stamp of approval.

“We’re looking to recognise exceptional 3D,” she explained. “We’re looking to pinpoint really good 3D experiences and then giving an Odeon stamp of approval.

Quality over quantity

The comments followed a presentation from IHS Technology, which suggested that fewer 3D films would not necessarily result in a smaller market and that more compelling 3D content would provide a boost to the market.

Charlotte Jones, principal analyst at IHS, said: “Audiences are electing out if they do not feel the 3D experience is justified. But an example like Gravity, where over 90% of the box office came from 3D, shows that audiences are actively seeking out credible 3D titles.”

China to take lead

The global 3D market was worth $7.4bn in 2013, a 2% increase on the $7.3bn generated in 2012, according to IHS, which highlighted China as a major force.

“The Chinese market is continuing to grow whereas the rest of the international market in combination is beginning to contract,” said Jones.

“China is adding over 3,000 new screens each year and local 3D films in China are generating around 30% of the 3D box office.”

She predicted: “By the end of this year, China will be the largest international 3D box office market.”

UK stalled

In contrast, the 3D box office has stalled in the UK, equal to 17% of the total in 2013. Takings for 3D movies in the UK peaked in 2010, which included Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3.

But while Toy Story 3’s box office comprised around 75% from 3D takings in the UK, Disney’s Planes in 2013 could only manage 12%.

Studio action

Jones highlighted how studios are beginning to respond to varied interest in 3D across territories. For example, Paramount’s Noah is not being released in 3D in the UK, US or Australia but it will be elsewhere.

Returning to China, Sont and MGM’s rebooted Robocop will only be released in 3D in that market, where it notched up 3.6 million admissions from more than 180,000 screenings during its first 10 days. It took $20.67m in its first three days.

Jones added: “There are cases where active 3D consumers are looking for premium experiences but that doesn’t necessarily transcend all markets.”