Hollywood goes 3D to keep theatres in picture
Staring at a future of downloadable films and near cinema-quality home movie systems, Hollywood is gambling that a shift to 3D theatres will keep movie-goers buying tickets at the local multiplex.
A consortium of the largest Hollywood studios announced plans Wednesday to convert 10,000 US theatres into 3D movie houses while leading animation studio Dreamworks said that from now on it would make all its films in the 3D format.
Together with a roster of more than 30 films that are already in production, the move is being hailed as one of the most exciting developments ever to hit Hollywood.
"It is nothing less than the greatest innovation that has happened to all of us in the movie business since the advent of colour 70 years ago," said Dreamworks chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg in announcing the developments at the annual industry confab ShoWest.
"Our customers are more than willing to pay a premium price when we've got a premium experience for them," he said.
The latest incarnation of Jules Verne's
Journey to the Center of the Earth
is already being mentioned as a summer blockbuster that will smash the 3D barrier.
High profile directors like James Cameron and Tim Burton both have 3D productions in the works, and a preview of Dreamworks' animated comedy
Monsters vs Alien
certainly wowed the folks gathered ShoWest.
They are hoping that the recent success of Disney's sub-teen hit,
Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert
, was the proof of the concept.
The concert movie generated $31 million in its opening weekend on only 683 screens, about one-fifth as many as the typical wide release as kids and their parents waited in line, paid high ticket prices and donned 3D glasses to watch their favourite star in action.
Advances in technology mean that the new 3D images bear little resemblance to the murky images that once defined the genre. The new 3D is all digital, giving sharper focus, brighter colours and a more lifelike experience, which after all is the main selling point of the 3D technology.
What's more, the new technology could also allow the revamped cinemas to easily broadcast sporting and other events. You won't even have to wear the paper glasses with green and red lenses of the older 3D systems.
The new glasses are sturdy plastic with polarised lenses but will certainly not win you any prizes for fashion.
Another downside is that prices for these screenings will be higher than those of regular movies. With tickets at many US screenings already around the $10 mark, 3D could mean prices of $13 or more.
The cinema sector certainly needs a boost from somewhere. Though figures released last week showed the world box office receipts at a record level of $36.3 billion last year, the statistics in the US were less encouraging.
High ticket prices did mean that overall receipts of $9.6 billion represented a record, but the dark lining to the silver cloud was that the actual number of tickets sold was 200 million less than in 2002.
Even this was considered a success within an industry that's competing for the attention of customers with the internet, video games and movie downloads, said Dan Glickman, President of the Motion Picture Association of America.
"Consumers are open to the digital home and the movie house," he said. "All in all, 2007 proved pretty healthy."