Head cheerleader: All films to be 3-D in 7 years at most

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It's a 3-D world, and Jeffrey Katzenberg thinks it's time to reflect that on the big screen — and not just in animated films.

"In five to seven years, all films, regardless of budgets or type, will be made in 3-D," the DreamWorks Animation boss said here Wednesday during his keynote at the inaugural 3DX Film and Entertainment Technology Festival.

"3-D is how we see, how we take things in. It's natural," Katzenberg said. "This is not a gimmick; it's an opportunity to immerse the audience, to heighten the experience."

He added that the migration to 3-D will happen on all screens, including mobile phones and laptops.

Katzenberg was joined by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Group president Mark Zoradi and others in stressing the industry's commitment to 3-D as the future of film.

Moviegoers' early response is clear, Zoradi said, citing the success of such 3-D titles as "Chicken Little" and "Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert."

"Consumers clearly prefer 3-D if they have a choice," he said, adding that 3-D films could bring in two to three times the business of a 2-D release.

Zoradi touted his studio's new five-picture deal with Imax, which kicks off with Robert Zemeckis' "A Christmas Carol" in November 2009, adding that the slate could involve projects from Tim Burton and Jerry Bruckheimer, though no details were disclosed.

Producer John Landau, who is working with James Cameron on "Avatar," said that 3-D would "do for cinema what stereo did for the audio industry."

All the film industry has to do is "demystify" 3-D for consumers, whose perception of the technology may be of "gimmicks on B films" and "theme parks that forced things off the screen," Landau said.

Zoradi's presentation Wednesday included the first public screening of 3-D footage from "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), the best picture Oscar nominee that Disney is re-rendering for a 2010 release, and Disney's "Tron 2," set for 2011 or 2012.

The addition of "Beauty and the Beast" brings Disney's number of digital 3-D releases for 2009-10 to 11, with six more due in 2011. This would give Disney more than 50% of all 3-D releases during the next three years; 11 of those would be animated.

"The biggest barrier (to 3-D) is not product, it's the installed base of digital cinemas," Zoradi said.

Katzenberg predicted that 35%-40% of admissions for March DWA release "Monsters vs. Aliens" will be for 3-D. For a film coming out 15 months later, he envisions 80%-85% of admissions for the company's next "Shrek" installment to be for 3-D.

Stressing the technical advances that made the latest incarnation of 3-D different from past efforts, Katzenberg said the technology "will bring people back to the movies who have stopped going."

"This is not my father's 3-D," he said. "There's no ghosting, no eye strain — and best of all, you don't throw up. Throwing up is not good for anyone's business."

All agreed that 3-D's ability to immerse audiences in the film is the key.

"There is nothing more immersive than 3-D," Landau said. "On 'Titanic,' our goal was to use visual effects to make people feel part of the film. With 'Avatar,' we're using technology to transport people to another world."

Katzenberg said that theatrical digital 3-D represents a "unique opportunity for cinemas" to create an experience that consumers could not get at home, "and it will be many years before they can."

Among the reasons cited was the fact that light diminishes the quality of the image.

"The only place in the home to replicate this is in the coat closet … and I would not want to spend two hours there watching a movie," he said. (partialdiff)
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