The film was released theatrically in the United States on August 12, 2011 to minor box office success, grossing over $18 million worldwide, and received mixed to positive reviews from critics.
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie depicts a Glee Cast concert in East Rutherford, New Jersey during the group's Glee Live! In Concert! tour. It features behind-the-scenes footage, and a setlist of songs from the show's first and second seasons. As well as the behind-the-scenes footage, the film portrays the series' influence on teenagers, including one who is gay named Trenton, one with Asperger syndrome named Josey Pickering, and a cheerleader with short stature named Janae. The fan segments were created by documentary filmmaker Jennifer Arnold.
The film features performances from the cast as their respective characters from the show. The fourteen central cast members are:
Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Holly Holliday) appeared at concerts shot for the film, however Lynch's scenes would only be included on the accompanying DVD/Blu-ray release. Ten actors and dancers appear as the Dalton Academy Warblers, joining Criss for a mini-set of three songs. Four of these Warblers appeared on the Glee TV series in the second season: Titus Makin, Jr. (David), Curt Mega (Nick), Riker Lynch (Jeff), and Jon Hall (vocal percussionist).
In May 2010, the Glee cast performed a sold-out 13-date North American concert tour. A European extension of the tour was announced in November of that year, and further North American dates were added for May and June 2011.
In early May 2011, it was announced that 20th Century Fox and series creator Ryan Murphy would together produce a 3-D film of the tour, directed by Kevin Tancharoen and shot during the North American leg. Murphy stated that the number of venues Glee Live! In Concert! could visit was limited, due to time constraints imposed by producing the television series, and as such, the film would enable a wider audience to experience the tour. Gary Newman, chairman of 20th Century Fox, expanded: "Part of what motivated us to do this movie in the first place is there was such a clamoring among Glee fans who said, 'Why didn't you bring this tour to my city?' They felt left out because we only went to four cities during our first tour. This movie will give fans—not just in the US but around the world—the chance to experience the 'Glee' concert in a visceral way." Newman said that the 3D format was chosen to give the audience "an immersing experience", and that the project is principally about "brand extension". He suggested that Glee is apt to work in the medium of film as many fans are teenagers and young adults, the prime concert film demographic, and are able to relate to Glee's central themes such as inclusion.
Filmed on June 16–17, 2011, at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Glee: The 3D Concert Movie was shot with the Cameron-Pace Group's 3D Fusion camera system. Glen MacPherson served as director of photography, and utilised seven Fusion 3D rigs with a range of set-ups, including a Cablecam, Steadicam, and Technocrane. The digital cinematography cameras held by the rigs mainly comprised a combination of Arri Alexas and Red Epics. CPG CEO Vince Pace noted, "One of the biggest challenges that we were able to overcome was the way these cameras are handled in a live production environment (compared with a feature shoot). The infrastructure of (CPG's mobile 3D production truck) had to accommodate the multiple camera formats and process them as a single format. That is not common in the broadcast world." The production truck was updated accordingly, and acquired, amongst other new technology items, a Kayenne Video Production Center production switcher, which allowed for the creation of line cuts—explained by Vince as cuts "created live and used to capture the energy at the time of the performance." He cited this as a factor which helped enable the film's completion with just a six-week post-production schedule. Though Pace would not disclose the project's budget when interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter, he said that it was around 40% lower than previous 3D concert films, and narrowed the cost gap between 2D productions and CPG's earlier 3D works, such as Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. Such budget was later revealed by The Hollywood Reporter to be $9 million.
The press junket for the film was held in Los Angeles on August 6–7, 2011.
The film premiered in Los Angeles on August 6, 2011, and received a nationwide release on August 12, 2011, playing in movie theaters for two weeks only, with sneak previews August 10, 2011 in select theaters. The film was released in the United Kingdom on August 19, 2011, also running for a two-week engagement.
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie received mixed reviews from critics; the film currently holds a score of 48 on Metacritic, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 60% of 90 professional critics gave the film a positive review and an average rating of 5.7/10, with the consensus "The unconverted will remain just as perplexed as ever, but for gleeful Gleeks, The 3D Concert Movie delivers exactly what it promises."
The film opened exclusively in 3D in 2,040 theaters. It performed below expectations in its opening weekend, earning just $5.7 million and failing to appear in the box office top 10. The film was expected to open in the $10–12 million range. As of September 29, 2011, the film had grossed $11,862,398 domestically and $18,252,398 worldwide, based on a $9 million budget. In the United States, the film is the seventh highest-grossing music concert film of all time.
The film was released on DVD, though the DVD version is not identical to the film. At a press conference the day of the film's premiere, Ryan Murphy said, "We're doing another version in a couple of weeks on DVD". One announced difference between the versions is that Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester), who does not appear in the film, does appear in the video. The film was released on December 20, 2011 in the United States, in DVD, Blu-ray, and 2-disc 3D Blu-ray formats. The UK edition, in these formats, was released earlier, on December 5, 2011. The movie was released in Australia on December 7, 2011.
The songs as performed in the film do not follow the order on the soundtrack album.
"Dog Days Are Over", "Single Ladies" and "Friday" did not appear in the film, but were included on the home release.
- "Don't Stop Believin'" – Finn, Rachel, New Directions
- "SING" – Rachel, Finn, New Directions
- "Empire State of Mind" – Artie, Finn, Puck, Rachel, Mercedes, Santana, New Directions
- "I'm a Slave 4 U" – Brittany
- "Fat Bottomed Girls" – Puck
- "Don't Rain on My Parade" – Rachel
- "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" – Artie
- "Ain't No Way" – Mercedes
- "Jessie's Girl" – Finn
- "Valerie" – Santana
- "Firework" – Rachel
- "Teenage Dream" – Blaine, Warblers
- "Silly Love Songs" – Blaine, Warblers
- "Raise Your Glass" – Blaine, Warblers
- "Happy Days Are Here Again / Get Happy" – Kurt, Rachel
- "Safety Dance" – Artie
- "Lucky" – Sam, Quinn
- "River Deep – Mountain High" – Mercedes, Santana
- "Forget You" – Holly, Artie, Mercedes, Santana, New Directions
- "I Want to Hold Your Hand" – Kurt
- "Born This Way" - Kurt, Tina, Mercedes, New Directions
- "Loser Like Me" – Rachel, Finn, Mercedes, Santana, New Directions
- "Don’t Stop Believin'" (end credits) – Finn, Rachel, New Directions
- "Somebody to Love" – Finn, Rachel, Mercedes, Artie, New Directions
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (Motion Picture Soundtrack) was released on August 9, 2011 by Columbia Records and Fox Music.