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Appeared on: Friday, October 21, 2011
US Blu-ray 3D to Enjoy Growth in 2011 and Beyond

Despite having only a limited catalog of film titles to offer its audience compared to other types of movie discs, the U.S. Blu-ray 3D (BD3D) market is set for an eightfold increase in 2011 and strong growth in the following years as the format makes its way into ever-more American households and new titles enter the retail channel, according to an IHS Screen Digest Video intelligence report.

The number of BD3D titles sold in retail to U.S. consumers is projected to reach almost 4.5 million units at the end of 2011, up from just 500,000 units in 2010 when BD3D first appeared. Prospects remain very bullish for the high-definition 3-D format, with retail sales expected to more than double in 2012. High double-digit growth in the years ahead will ensue, and by 2015 over 25 million BD3D units will be sold annually. While BD3D will always remain a relatively small part of overall Blu-ray sales, the premium format project will enjoy rapid growth in the next five years.

A total of 64 BD3D title releases have been confirmed so far for 2011, compared to 37 for all of last year, and the number of BD3D releases has remained fairly steady at approximately 25 every six months.

Meanwhile, the number of titles bundled exclusively with 3-D hardware has been falling steadily. Although "Avatar," the most popular 3-D movie of all time, remains available just through 3-D hardware bundles with Panasonic, only "Megamind" chose to join the exclusive bundling route among the year's entire crop of releases, joining "Shrek Forever" in a bundle deal with Samsung.

Given Disney's recent announcement of the release of a further four BD3D titles - the "Toy Story" trilogy as well as "Cars 2" - the total number of retail BD3D films available in the United States this holiday season will be close to 100. The release of movies on BD3D currently follows an average theatrical­to-video window of slightly more than 11 weeks, or about five months.

While animation accounted for 20 of the 37 BD3D titles released last year, the pendulum is swinging in 2011 in favor of live-action films. The number of animated BD3D titles in 2011 is unchanged at 20, but live-action BD3D movies will more than double to 44, IHS Screen Digest research indicates.

Among live-action movies, IMAX documentaries make up the most dominant single genre, account­ing for 19 titles. However, if the action, adventure-horror and sci-fi; genres were all combined into a single special-effects-laden category, the newly merged total would result in 27 titles overall. In comparison, just five live-action titles fall into the family/drama category.

The studio with the largest number of BD3D movies in its roster is Disney with 20, including 15 animated titles to date plus five live-action movies, followed by Warner Bros with 13, and Sony with 12.

All told, the number of BD3D titles being released remains small compared to the 135 titles delivered on the original Blu-ray Disc (BD) format during the BD launch year in the United States in 2006, and to the 295 BD titles that came the following year in 2007. Unlike BD, however, BD3D does not have access to the same depth of catalog. Movies being considered for release on the high- definition BD format could draw on the entire theatrical movie catalog as well as on a growing list of dedicated movies, TV series and documentaries shot in high definition. In contrast, BD3D is restricted to titles filmed in native 3-D, or to those produced in 2-D and subsequently converted into 3-D - a combined category that so far amounts to no more than 100 titles, IHS Screen Digest estimates.

"With such restrictions, BD3D is likely to remain a niche product for the foreseeable future - albeit one that should continue to be able to command a premium price. Nonetheless, 3-D-capable households in the United States will continue to grow in number, and retail shelves also can expect increased BD3D availability in the future," the report concludes.

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