In 1851, Prince Albert organized the Great Exhibition at the
Crystal Palace in London's Hyde Park.
Not only was the building itself a wonder but attendees could also
see the most fantastic products available, from an early version of
the fax machine to American photographer Michael Brady's
Another exhibit was of an unusual photograph of Prince Albert's
wife, Queen Victoria. The image was presented in 3-D. Attendees
were shocked by the technology.
Yet it was almost another 100 years before movie studios came up
with the first generation of 3-D technology in an attempt to lure
audiences away from their living-room televisions and back into the
A generation later, the advent of digital projection,
computer-generated animation and other technological advancements
culminated in "Avatar," which was the first film to be devised
specifically for 3-D technology.
This was a game-changer. It's the kind of watershed moment that
gets me in research mode for
One of the biggest gambles of the project was Avatar's producers
James Cameron and Jon Landau's pitch to movie theaters about the
advent of a new generation of 3-D content. Digital 3-D projectors
and large format
screens are expensive, and the theater industry works on tight
margins. So spending big bucks for a whiz-bang technology that
doesn't have much content is a risky venture, to say the least.
Then, "Avatar" grossed nearly $3 billion. Hollywood and the theater
chains saw that the technology had the power to bring in the crowds
-- some 80% of which shelled out for the premium ticket to see the
picture in its intended 3-D glory.
Dozens of other films have since followed suit. Hollywood mogul
Jeff Katzenberg of
DreamWorks SKG (NYSE:
calls 3-D "the greatest innovation that's happened for the movie
theaters and for moviegoers since color." Theater chains are
spending billions upgrading their equipment.
Demand for 3-D sets and content is growing rapidly
But the opportunity doesn't end at the theater.
At present, 3-D functionality is becoming increasingly available on
many high-end TVs. Last year was the first year 3-D TVs were
available. Overall, 2010's HDTV sales jumped 17% year-over-year, to
247 million sets worldwide; manufacturers sold 3.2 million 3-D
sets. The 3-D sets are still expensive, with a price tag north of
$1,300, or more than twice the $500 a modestly-sized LCD HDTV goes
While 3.2 million of out 247 million is only 1.3%, lower prices and
bigger screens will propel the technology forward as consumers
begin to replace their first-generation flat screens.
Market watcher iSuppli says 281 million TV sets will be shipped in
2011 -- about 14% more than last year -- with more and more 3-D
sets sold. Research group DisplaySearch predicts manufacturers will
ship 91 million 3-D capable sets in 2014 -- that would be nearly
30-fold growth from 2010 levels.
Nor is the transformation limited to movie theaters and TV sets.
The gaming world is also embracing 3-D.
Activision Blizzard's (Nasdaq:
extremely popular video game "Call of Duty: Black Ops" is already
3-D capable, and let's not forget that some of the biggest opening
weekends in entertainment are not at the multiplex but at
. The favorite "Grand Theft Auto IV" did $310 million in sales its
first 24 hours alone.
Action to Take -->
So let's add this up: The technology is in play. It's being rolled
out at the multiplex, on your TV, on handheld devices and is, at
the same time, being embraced from content providers across the
programming spectrum. In only a few years, it is expected to have a
third of the TV market and a sizable chunk of the box office, as
receipt totals already attest. Is there any doubt left in your mind
that this is the "next big thing?"
While I think 3-D is game-changing technology, it's far from the
only one out there. If you haven't already watched (thousands
have), I've put together a
-- "6 Financial Surprises That Will Create Huge Investment
Opportunities in 2011." This presentation discusses some of the
biggest game-changing ideas -- besides 3-D companies -- that I have
uncovered for this year.
Click here to view it
Disclosure: Neither Andy Obermueller nor StreetAuthority, LLC
hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.