3-D: The eyes have it!
H'wood says more than gimmick this time
By Ben Fritz, Nicole Laporte
February 5, 2007
Bring out those goofy glasses: 3-D is back.
While there are only 250 screens in the world now equipped to show the format, that number should double in the next two months -- and quadruple by the end of 2007.
In the past few years, 3-D has proven popular on a limited number of Imax screens, where screenings of pics such as "Superman Returns" and "The Polar Express" regularly have outgrossed their 2-D counterparts. Studios now are betting hundreds of millions of dollars on the expansion of new technology that works on any screen with a digital cinema system.
And one of the key goals is to re-establish the primacy of filmgoing.
Though there are some developing technologies for 3-D at home, none compares to what's currently rolling out in theaters.
Studios are banking on 3-D in a variety of formats: animation ("Meet the Robinsons"), motion-capture (the Robert Zemeckis-helmed "Beowulf"), live-action ("Journey 3-D") and even revivals (1993 toon "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is now an annual event in 3-D, while George Lucas hopes to re-release his "Star Wars" pics in the format).
But the poster boy for the revival is James Cameron, whose "Avatar" will be released by Fox in 2009. The live-action film -- his first fiction work since the 1997 "Titanic" -- will be released only in 3-D. Proponents hope Cameron and his film will be a rallying point for the new format.That tradition continues with upcoming toons. Because pics like Disney's "Meet the Robinsons" are already rendered in 3-D, it's a relatively simple process to add effects that take advantage of the RealD technology.
There are three different categories of pics in the works for 3-D, with different levels of cost and risk.
The safest, cheapest bet is CGI toons. The second set are films of various genres that are turned into 3-D after they've been shot, such as "Nightmare Before Christmas." Other studios are known to be combing their libraries for potential 3-D re-releases, viewing it as a new way to mine revenue from existing product.http://www.variety.com/article/VR111...goryid=13&cs=1A key is to woo audiences. Some are wary after complaints of headaches or nausea after viewing the few non-Imax 3-D pics that were released, such as "Spy Kids: Game Over" (although that pic was profitable).
"We have to re-educate people," says Landau. "The in-theater presentation of 3-D is a quantum leap ahead of what it was even two years ago. ... The screen has always been a barrier for the audience's experience of the movie. Quality 3-D removes that barrier. The screen disappears."
However, there's already evidence that digital 3-D can help to boost B.O. Disney's "Chicken Little" grossed three times as much per play on 3-D screens as on traditional screens. The ratio of Sony's "Monster House" was closer to fourfold.
Perhaps the most impressive showing came from "The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D." Last fall, Disney re-released the 14-year-old pic with a 3-D upgrade and grossed more than $8 million at 168 locations, opening with a per-play average of nearly $20,000. (Overseas, it made an additional $2.8 million.) This fall, the Mouse House is hoping to make a lot more money, since it will be able to release the pic at between 750 and 1,000 playdates.