3-D cinema poised for rapid global growth

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LONDON -- The potential of 3-D cinema could provide the "jump point" for the mainstream exhibition industry to embrace digital technology, delegates were told at the RAAM conference for digital cinema here Thursday.

"Early adopter exhibitors are already reaping very strong returns on their investments," according to a report released by industry analysts Screen Digest. "Exhibitors who are not planning to equip their theaters with 3-D screens run a serious risk of being left behind."

Screen Digest states that there are currently about 3,800 digital screens worldwide, the majority of which are in the U.S., followed by Europe and Asia. While the U.K. accounts for some 250 digital screens, these are the result of the U.K. Film Council's virtual cinema circuit, and do not constitute a commercially driven market.

The report also states that, during the first six months of 2007, the number of digital 3-D screens has almost tripled to 750, with 85% of them in the U.S. and much activity in Korea, Australia and Germany. With seven digital 3-D screens, the U.K. is second in Europe to Germany, which boasts 22.

Globally, there are now 41 cinema chains in 21 different territories that have more than one 3-D screen, and Screen Digest forecasts that there will be more than 5,000 digital 3-D screens worldwide by 2009 -- more than 5% of all modern cinema screens.

Screen Digest's analysis of boxoffice data from the first four digital 3-D releases ("Chicken Little," "Monster House," "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disney Digital 3-D" and "Meet the Robinsons") makes a strong case for the rapid growth in digital technology capable of handling 3-D images.

The research shows that digital 3-D screens generate, on average, three times more revenue and 2.4 times higher attendance per screen when compared with 2D screenings for the first weekend of a film's release.

The report concludes that "as the Hollywood studios invest heavily in movies designed exclusively for 3-D, the number of screens will need to increase dramatically from its current low base in order to support this new wave of 3-D films."
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