3D looms into movie universe
Success off 'Monsters vs. Aliens' confirms digital 3-D's draw, and studios are leaping at the opportunity.
Century City, Calif.
From an eager director keen to tell a new kind of story to a theater owner eyeing a sevenfold rise in premium-priced tickets to even a Hollywood studio trying to predict the future, there’s only one story in town these days: 3-D.Skip to next paragraph
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Not the old films with red/green plastic anaglyphic glasses used to make spears and tennis balls “pop” into audience’s faces, but a mature, digital system with lightweight, polarized specs used for everything from major sports and cultural events – an NFL game or a U2 concert – and by such Hollywood names as Stephen Spielberg, DreamWorks, Disney, Johnny Depp, and Pixar.
This is what director and longtime 3-D champion James Cameron calls a “renaissance” for the technology, one that is finally viable for serious filmmakers.
“This really expands the lexicon of filmmaking,” says Paul Dergarabedian, film analyst for Hollywood.com. The new digital, stereoscopic technology is a director’s tool that gives audiences a broader moviegoing experience, he says, adding that it also provides a bright spot for beleaguered theater owners and studio executives facing a long-term erosion of the moviegoing habit.
“This is as important a step forward in the evolution of the movie business as sound or color,” says Sandy Climan, chief executive officer of 3ality Digital. “This takes people more completely into the action, which is where they want to be.”
The runaway success of such recent 3-D animated ventures as “Monsters vs. Aliens,” which hauled in $59.3 million its opening weekend, and “Bolt” have sped the adoption of the tool. Animation has led the way into 3-D’s mainstream acceptance, says Mr. Cameron, who committed to 3-D years ago when he began a $200 million 3-D, sci-fi fantasy “Avatar.” He says he “gambled” that the industry would catch up by the time he finished the film. It took longer than expected to complete and will now be released in December.
But it appears the industry is well on its way to mainstream acceptance, if not physical readiness. DreamWorks and Pixar have committed their future slates to 3-D; Mr. Spielberg will release the European classic, “TinTin,” in 3-D this summer; Disney just announced a Tim Burton-helmed 3-D IMAX “Alice in Wonderland” with Johnny Depp.
There will be at least 14 3-D films this year with a total of 40 within the next three years. Lack of venues is the biggest obstacle to that number being higher. Movie houses nationwide are scrambling to convert at least a single screen to 3-D capability (at $25,000 a pop, on top of the roughly $100,000 for a digital conversion). "Monsters" rolled out on 2,000 3-D screens, which is roughly 5 percent of the nation’s total screens, but that is double the number from less than a year ago.