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The total number of Blu-ray disc 3D (BD-3D) titles in the U.S. market has grown by more than a factor of five within two short years since the format started in 2010, with major-studio releases this year outnumbered surprisingly by more modestly budgeted titles from independent studios in the BD-3D catalog, according to IHS market tracker. Unfortunately, BD-3D represents just 8% of physical video business.

By the time 2012 closes, some 200 BD-3D titles will be available for purchase in the United States, up from 37 in 2010 and 108 in 2011. This year alone, 92 titles will be added to the roster, compared to 71 last year. Releases from the majors still outnumber independent films as a whole over the last two years, at a rate of 111 to 89. However, that ratio is reversed this year with more indie titles coming out on BD-3D than big-studio releases.

Early in the life of the format, the slate for BD-3D videos closely followed the theatrical 3-D schedule, focusing on new-release stereo-3D movies. At the same time, the early home-video S3D lineup was biased toward animation and documentaries. But more recently, the format has seen a substantial increase in live-action stereoscopic 3D movies across all genres, including action, adventure, horror, family, music, sci-fi, drama and comedy. Non-movie titles have also been made available, covering both the documentary and erotic-film categories.

The drop in major-studio BD-3D titles reflects a change in strategy, as the big players move away from the initial 3-D gold rush that followed in the wake of the enormously successful movie Avatar. The current BD-3D approach appears more focused on select blockbuster titles, as well as on key catalog 2D to 3D conversions. Examples of the former include the superheroes flick The Avengers, while examples of the latter can be seen in titles like I, Robot and Titanic.

Meanwhile, the number of independent BD-3D titles continues to increase rapidly – 55 alone for this year, compared to 25 in 2011. The rapid expansion of indie titles on BD-3D suggests the level of maturity of the format: BD-3D is no longer the exclusive haunt of the majors, whose output fell from 46 titles in 2011 to 37 this year. And for the standard to flow into the far more circumscribed indie film world is also indicative of broader acceptance and penetration of the medium. 

To be sure, BD-3D makes up just a small portion – 8% – of the physical video business. Nonetheless, the format is here to stay. In particular, this year could be seen as the point when BD-3D transforms from mere novelty status into permanent mainstay, IHS believes. Some blockbuster titles have even performed remarkably well, such as the sci-fi movie Prometheus from 20th Century Fox, whose BD-3D version generated first-week sales equivalent to a quarter of the title’s overall retail takings.

More intriguing, BD-3D could be seen as an aspirational product. It is the home video’s sole luxury item, released as part of an ultimate video package with multiple discs, priced at a premium above standard 2D Blu-ray versions. On its uniquely situated perch, BD-3D could represent a coveted goal for upscaling among consumers, while serving up hopes for industry players to revive viewer interest in a declining physical video market.

Tags: Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, Stereo 3D

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