The 2009 highest-grossing-ever film owed much of its success to its revolutionary use of the 3D format.

This chart, made by an unnamed movie researcher, shows the number of 3D movies released per year from 2005 to 2014:

How will Avatar 2 affect the competition? James Cameron says he’s aiming for an improved 3D viewing experience on Avatar 2.

But Avatar represented a breakthrough for the technology and advertisers took the newfound awareness of 3D and ran with it, not just for movie promotions, but for any campaign that could get approval by a brand’s decision-makers.

Then much of that activity ceased, perhaps in response to the ongoing economic downturn, or perhaps in response to copycat 3D movies that followed Avatar. They gave the technology a bad name by cut-and-pasting a few 3D elements atop of a movie already in production and then sticking movie-goers with a bigger ticket price.

Slogging On

Maybe the next series of Avatar movies will give 3D the push it needs into mainstream ad technology. Cameron has said he is working on improving the technology for the next film. Also, when the first Avatar was released, smartphones were still in minority of cell phone-carrying users and consumer incomes were not disposable enough to buy the very expensive 3D television sets that were starting to come to market. Those trends may well be in full sail by the time the next Avatar movies come out.