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.