I was surprised to learn over the holiday weekend that my younger cousins (under 10 years of age) overall hated to see movies in 3D, as opposed to 2D. The reason: they don’t like wearing glasses for 2 hours. There was no bias coming from the parents, and whatever format the kids chose the family saw together. This was not a surprise when it comes to toddlers, who can’t sit still for any length of time, let alone keep glasses on. But kids being kids, I naturally assumed they would vote for technology and novelty every time, so I was surprised when my generalization was disproved by these exceptions.
Subsequent to this revelation, I just went to see Tangled with my toddler; I naturally sought-out the 2D version and was further surprised to find that only one theater in all of Los Angeles was showing the 2D version and it was on the other side of town, which can be a major deterrent.
This scarcity of 2D screens leads me to presume that what I learned this weekend is already common knowledge amongst parents of young kids (under 10) and that studios are knowingly foregoing this demographic in favor of the older, 3D audiences. The 3D box office numbers obviously make a compelling case for studios, and the mere availability of 2D alternatives tells me that either the studios are aware, but only willing to make minor accommodations, or they aren’t aware and are only making 2D versions because 3D screens aren’t completely ubiquitous. If the former is correct, then I believe the studios are selling themselves short by not making 2D versions more available; if the latter is correct, then 2D could become obsolete once 3D fully pervades the land.
So where do parents go to see 3D films that can’t be watched in 3D? They can either wait for 2D versions on DVD/VOD, or watch them in 2D on cable — or they can skip the film altogether. I discussed the alternative of watching 3D films at home, and the parents felt that that was even worse than watching it in a theater. The parents I spoke with unanimously agreed that they were not interested in watching 3D at home, even with older kids, until glasses were were no longer needed. It’s understandable that little kids don’t want to wear the glasses, but when it comes to watching 3D home, even the older kids (and adults) seem to lose interest because the glasses inhibit doing other things while watching the movie, like reading or playing on their computers or phones. This significantly raises the stakes for companies like RealD and Toshiba which are investing heavily in 3D televisions that do not require glasses. Alternatively, I suppose LensCrafters could make an equally big investment in 3D bifocals.
The point being, if your film is intended for an audience under 10 years old, I wouldn’t rush out to make it in 3D, just yet. These kids might like 3D, but not enough to warrant 90 minutes of annoyance. If you’re going to do it anyway, then take a page from Captain EO and give them lots of flying things to grab for.