U.K. research firm Screen Digest says more than 70 percent of the 25 3-D movies expected to be available this holiday season will be tied to the purchase of a TV from a certain manufacturer.
For example, a Sony 3-D TV buyer won't immediately be able to watch DreamWorks Animation's "How To Train Your Dragon" because that movie will be tied to the purchase of a set from Samsung Electronics Co. Meanwhile, the Walt Disney Co. said last week that home copies of its 3-D movies "Alice in Wonderland" and "Bolt" would be available exclusively to people who buy certain sets from Sony Corp.
Screen Digest says that so far, only three Hollywood movies, including Disney's "A Christmas Carol," and three documentaries will be available on retail shelves without being tied to a specific TV brand.
The firm presented its findings at the 3D Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Although buyers of 3-D TVs can appreciate that bundled movies will allow them to try out their new TV immediately, a lack of broadly available titles could hinder the adoption of 3-D watching in the home, said Helen Davis Jayalath, an analyst with Screen Digest.
"The exclusive bundling deals can't go on for too long, or it's going to be a problem," Davis Jayalath said after her presentation. "Hopefully these licensing deals will expire soon."
Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., said it will take another year or two before enough homes have 3-D TV sets for it to make sense to release 3-D Blu-ray movies without such bundles.
"For us, we felt that the greatest opportunity is to partner with Samsung," he said in an interview.
Although 3-D movies have already given a lift to revenue from theaters, it could take a while for 3-D TVs to really take hold. Screen Digest said by 2014, about 28 percent of TV-owning households in the United States will have a 3-D TV.
Potentially helping the market: plans by various companies to launch about 20 dedicated 3-D TV channels. Some one-off events have already been carried in 3-D, such as portions of the recent PGA Championship on TNT.
Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, the chief technology officer for Panasonic Corp. of North America, said the dearth of openly available movie content was just a short-term problem.
Exclusive deals can expire quickly, such as when Sony offered its 3-D movie, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," in June only with the purchase of a Sony 3-D TV set. Now, the 3-D version of the movie is available to anyone.
Tsuyuzaki expects that enough 3-D TVs will be sold by January such that Hollywood studios would make more of their 3-D catalogs available at retail outlets.
"When we're over 2 million, then everyone puts skin in the game," Tsuyuzaki said.