Twilight bested Bolt at the box office, but Disney’s animated caper has something those teen vampires don’t — an added dimension. Bolt marks the studio’s first attempt at an animated feature that was conceived to be seen in 3-D. Previous offerings like Meet the Robinsons and Chicken Little relied on the visual effect for novelty, but Bolt’s filmmakers created an immersive world that could represent a new era of 3-D animation. ”What I’m proud of is a lot of the critics wrote about how great it is in 3-D,” says Bolt producer Clark Spencer. ”It’s not a gimmick, it’s part of the storytelling.”
Others are taking notice too. The NFL has corralled theaters nationwide into airing the first-ever 3-D game on Dec. 4. And next year brings the premiere of nine 3-D animated films, including Pixar’s first effort, Up, and DreamWorks’ Monsters vs. Aliens. Like Spencer, those filmmakers believe that 3-D movies aren’t meant to leave audiences feeling as if they just exited a roller coaster. ”We made it clear that if we’re going to do this movie in 3-D, we want to use it to tell the story and not take the audience out of the movie by sticking stuff in their face,” says Conrad Vernon, co-director of Monsters vs. Aliens.
And 3-D could be good news for Hollywood’s bottom line. While Bolt didn’t deliver the $30 million many had predicted for opening weekend, nearly 40 percent of its $26 million gross came from 3-D screens. Studios need those kinds of numbers to keep encouraging cineplex owners to install more 3-D screens and digital projectors. ”On the exit polls, you can always tell when it’s 3-D, because audiences rate it even higher,” says Disney’s distribution president Chuck Viane. And since theater chains charge $1 to $3 more for a 3-D show, that’s just what they want to hear.