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Monday, January 12, 2009

James Cameron Glowers, Angrily Crosses Arms Over Lack of 3-D Theaters.

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 11:30 AM

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Last week I blogged about Hollywood's infatuation with 3-D movies; now, the Times has a story on how the whole thing could backfire due to, um, a lack of actual theaters to show these 3-D movies in. Good thinking, Hollywood!

The Walt Disney Company alone has 15 three-dimensional movies in its pipeline. Twentieth Century Fox is betting an estimated $200 million on Avatar, a 3-D space adventure directed by Mr. Cameron and set for December release, his first nondocumentary film since 1997’s Titanic, still the biggest moneymaker in movie history, without counting inflation. All told, the movie factory has over 30 3-D pictures on the way.

But analysts are starting to warn that all of that product could find itself sitting on a loading dock with no place to go. Studios, thrilled by 3-D’s dual promises of higher profits and artistic advancement, have aggressively embraced the technology without waiting for movie theaters to get on board. And without those expensive upgrades to projection equipment at the multiplex, mass market 3-D releases are not tenable.

“It’s starting to look like there will be a lot of disappointed producers unable to realize the upside of these 3-D investments,” said Harold L. Vogel, a media analyst and the author of “Entertainment Industry Economics.” Filming in 3-D adds about $15 million to production costs, he said, but can send profit soaring because of premium ticket pricing.

Only about 1,300 of North America’s 40,000 or so movie screens support digital 3-D. (Imax adds 250.) Overseas, where films now generate up to 70 percent of their theatrical revenue, only a few hundred theaters can support the technology.

The part where it gets really sad is after the jump.

The shortage is sending mixed messages to moviegoers, many of whom are already skeptical of the claims about 3-D. Because of a shortage of outlets last summer, Warner Brothers had to scramble to change the marketing for Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D—dropping “3D” from the title — and offer a two-dimensional release in tandem. Lionsgate will have just 900 3-D theaters available for My Bloody Valentine 3D on Jan. 16, forcing the studio to show a standard version on about 1,600 screens.

Oh, no! You mean that people can't see Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D and My Bloody Valentine 3D as their auteur directors originally intended? Panic!

The delay is also threatening to undercut one of the primary benefits for theaters—the ability to deliver an experience that consumers cannot replicate at home. But the home entertainment market is rapidly catching up, with companies developing 3-D options for the home.

Oh. Shit. So this 3-D revolution is never going to happen, is what you're telling me.

People who remember 3-D from the 1950s roll their eyes at Hollywood’s renewed fascination with the medium. They associate 3-D with cheesy films (Creature From the Black Lagoon), stiff cardboard glasses and jerky, stomach-turning camera movements.

This time, movie executives insist that everything has changed. Digital projectors deliver the images with perfect precision—eliminating headaches and nausea—while plastic glasses have replaced the cardboard.

Most important, say filmmakers, new equipment allows movies to be built in 3-D from the ground up, providing a more immersive and realistic viewing experience and not one based just on visual gimmicks.

Oh, COME ON, filmmakers. You know as well as I do that Hollywood's all about "visual gimmicks." If you take away that, what have you got? NOTHING, Hollywood. NOTHING.

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