Coming soon: 3-D versions of 2-D films

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Bogie and Bergman lock lips in full holographic glory. Marty McFly’s DeLorean drives directly into your face. You grab at Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber as he tosses it to Han Solo.

Soon moviegoers may be able to see the great films of yesteryear in a whole new dimension.

George Lucas helped get the 2-D-to-3-D ball rolling at 2005’s ShoWest exhibition, when he unveiled six minutes from “Star Wars” that had been converted to 3-D by a company called In-Three. Lucas has since announced plans to reissue all six “Star Wars” films in 3-D. At the same time, Disney plans to follow up its release of a 3-D version of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” with the October 2009 release of a 3-D version of “Toy Story,” with “Toy Story 2” to follow in February 2010.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. In-Three is currently working on converting George A. Romero’s 1978 zombie classic “Dawn of the Dead” to 3-D, while Disney has “Tron” and “Step Up” on its slate.

The high price tag for live-action conversions — between $75,000-$135,000 per minute — is still a barrier. (Pixar general manager Jim Morris says that costs are much lower for the “Toy Story” films because the studio is able to work from the original data files.)

But the enthusiasm for the conversions is there, says In-Three president and CEO David Seigle. He believes the bigger issue is the lack of 3-D-equipped theaters.

“We’ll go in and quote $8 million for a feature and (the studio) will say, ‘That’s reasonable, but it’ll cost us $20 million to do the advertising, and we can’t sell it on DVD, so we need to make the money in theaters,’” he says.

Still, Seigle — who cites 1940’s “Fantasia” and 1939’s “Gone With the Wind” as the two classic films he’d most like to see converted to 3-D — has noticed a definite shift in industry interest. “I used to have to call the studios,” he says. “Now the studios are calling me.”
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