Saturday, March 29, 2008

Set your 3D sights on July.

When's the last time you saw a movie in 3D? If you're answer stretches your memory back past 2005, it's not recent enough to appreciate the
 explosion of 3D that is just around your multiplex's corner. There have already been a handful of 3D releases over the past three years but the real resurgence is poised for just about a year from now.
Over lunch with a friend a little more than a month ago, I bet that 3D would become the single most influential element to change movie theaters and the movie going experience in decades. We were only a month or so from the release of U2's 3D concert film (creatively titled U2 3D) and there were advance tickets for sale (to the overflow crowds who couldn't score tickets to a live performance) for Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert. Disney's Miley concert (opening on Superbowl weekend, see our post here), so dominated the available 3D equipped theaters that the planned 10 day run extended weeks beyond and all but pushed U2 off the screen. While Miley took in a startling 31.3 million on opening weekend and closed it's run with nearly 65 million in the US, U2 3D, according to Yahoo.com, made only about a tenth of that number. So there's the good news and the bad news of 3D in one snapshot, tons of potential, not enough screens.

All of that is what's changing. When Chuck Viane, President of Distribution for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures was asked about availability of screens for the Miley Cyrus release, his response was, "If there were 3000 3D screens available, would we have played them all? Yeah, I think we would." Next year, if things go as planned, that's the kind of decision he could wind up having to make. In the preceding months that lead to March of 2009, the powers that are backing 3D as a major new marketing and artistic tool for the movies, will be watching closely as about 3000 theater screens will gain the digital technology needed to go 3D. That will effectively quadruple today's number and will hopefully plant one, if not several, 3D capable theaters in your very own backyard.

So what's all the hoopla? Your next chance to find out comes this July with the release of Disney's joint venture with Walden Media and New Line Cinema, Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D starring Brendan  Fraser. The first live action entry for the new wave of 3D production, trailers for Journey have been playing with almost every 3D feature hitting screens in the last year. If you've seen anything in 3D you've likely caught it. With a July 11th release date, Journey will be jumping off 3D screens among lots of hot summer titles, including Will Smith's Hancock released just a week earlier. (Mr. Fraser will also have a 2D follow up when the next movie in The Mummy series hits conventional and far more numerous screens in August.) All eyes will be on the per screen take at the box-office and if the present trend holds, 3D screens may more than double the box-office take of their 2D counterparts.

Two weeks after Journey digs into screens, two other 3D releases are set to bow. The first, also from Disney is the broad comedy/fantasy G-Force starring the voices of Nicholas Cage, Penélope Cruz, Steve Buscemi and Tracy Morgan. The second, set for the same date, is the horror remake Piranha. Directed by Alexandré Aja, the culprit behind The Hills Have Eyes. It couldn't take very long for horror directors to jump on the bandwagon. What better way to breath new life into tiring and "seen it all" splatter flicks like the Saw series?

Take comfort, if you get caught up into seeing in 3D, you're only at the tip of the iceberg... here's a little of what's on the slate for 2009...

One year from now, Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg will likely be feeling like he's given birth. With 3D, a long gestating dream, the first born onto 3D screens will be the animated Monsters vs. Aliens starring the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Steven Colbert and others. Monsters vs Aliens is currently scheduled for March 27, 2009.

Perhaps the most talked about and highly anticipated 3D project so far, director James Cameron will release Avatar. Boasting the acting talents of Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi, the sci-fi adventure Avatar is currently set for release in December of next year.

If waiting on Avatar will be making you crazy, there are nearly 30 other projects currently in the pipeline. Among those are How to Train Your Dragon from Dreamworks, Toy Story 3D from Disney (who expect to also release the first two Toy Story films reprocessed in 3D as well). George Lucas is said to be working on releasing the original three Star Wars films (episodes IV, V & VI) also reprocessed and Summit Entertainment will be releasing the animated adventure of some youthful bugs that sneak aboard the Apollo 11 moon mission in Fly Me to the Moon

So will 3D really change what's happening at the movies. No matter the impact, it's clear that the movie theaters will indeed be changing. The momentum to convert projection technology to digital and the need by theater owners to compete with ever more advanced home theaters, will bring assured change, from screen image to comfort to amenities. Oh, and did I mention ticket price? Speaking of... would you go to a movie theater that charged $35.00 a seat? Some people are already doing exactly that, and loving it. We'll tell you where, next on Moviedozer Dailies.

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