Is Avatar's Blu-ray success bad news for 3D TV?

Since Avatar is a smashing success in Blu-ray 2D, does this mean consumers are blasé about 3D entertainment in the home?

Hollywood moviemakers and TV manufacturers should file this item under Good News/Bad News. First, the good: The blockbuster movie Avatar is apparently a blockbuster on Blu-ray as well. Released just yesterday in stores--Earth Day, in case you missed the symbolism--Avatar racked up record sales of 1.5 million copies in the Blu-ray format. According to the Hollywood Reporter, an early industry estimate places overall disc sales (DVD and Blu-ray) of Avatar somewhere north of 4 million.

And while Avatar director James Cameron and Fox Home Entertainment, which released the disc, are no doubt popping champagne corks today, there may be a downside to the movie's record-breaking disc sales -- at least for TV makers. You see, the initial Blu-ray release of Avatar isn't in 3D, but in plain old two dimensions. The millions of buyers who've already snapped up Avatar discs are aware of this, naturally, and there's a good chance they're drawn more by film's action, characters, and plot than by the (admittedly cool) visually gimmickry of 3D. Fans who want Avatar 3D on Blu-ray will have to wait until early next year, according to Fox.

3D @ Home

Now the potential bad news: Since Avatar is a smashing success in Blu-ray 2D, does this mean that consumers are blasé about 3D entertainment in the home? After all, content drives adoption of new consumer technologies, at least most of the time. If shoppers are snapping up Avatar discs now, it is quite possible they'll pass on the 3D version -- well, aside from a relatively small number of home theater buffs who want to recreate a theatrical experience.

To be fair, 3D TVs are new and expensive, and few consumers own one today. But wouldn't Avatar, not only the highest-grossing film of all time, but also one that's integrally linked with 3D entertainment, be the killer app (or killer disc, in this case) that spurs people to drop big bucks on a 3D-ready HDTV, a 3D Blu-Ray player, and at least two (and likely more) pairs of 3D glasses?

I'm not saying that 3D TV will fail. But Avatar's early disc sales may provide a clue as to what consumers think of 3D at home. If you're a TV manufacturer, it's too soon for the vomit bag. But do keep one handy -- just in case.

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Jeff Bertolucci

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