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Jury Still Out on 3D Market Titles

Sellers say the format stirs interest, but the costs can be an issue.

BUSAN, South Korea -- 3D helps generate sales interest, but not necessarily sales, exhibitors at the sixth Asian Film Market told The Hollywood Reporter.

3D titles are building a stronger presence at this year’s BEXCO-held Busan market, with Boon Joon-ho’s The Host 3D, converted from the original 2D 2006 hit, and Tsui Hark’s $35 million The Flying Swords of the Dragon Gate leading the pack. For a potential high-profile blockbuster such as Swords, 3D is just another commercial element among many. “The fact that it’s the first Chinese-language martial arts film fully shot in true 3D generates keen interest,” said Virginia Leung, head of sales at Hong Kong-based Distribution Workshop.

For genre titles, 3D certainly is a selling point, but it’s not a sure thing, which is why the thriller Dark Flight from Thailand’s Five Star Productions is being offered in both 2D and 3D. “With a choice, buyers are defi- nitely more interested in knowing more about the 3D version, but no actual sale has been made yet,” said the company’s Pannita Likitthammasarn.

A 3D film’s chances are helped if the genre is a director’s specialty, such as Universe Films’ psychological thriller Sleepwalker 3D by director Oxide Pang. The Angelica Lee vehicle, selected in-competition at the upcoming Tokyo Inter- national Film Festival, is the second 3D Universe release since 2010’s The Child’s Eye 3D by Pang, along with his twin Danny. “We’re cautious choosing films to make in 3D, only the suitable genres make the cut,” said Universe COO Alvin Lam. “The story of Sleepwalker is intriguing enough even if it’s not in 3D, but the 3D element does help attract the attention of buyers in certain regions not usually drawn to these kind of stories.”

But in terms of international sales, the potential for 3D is hit or miss, especially given the costs of the format. “It’s less easy to push for theatrical release out- side of Asia — the asking price for 3D films is higher and the material is more expensive. When it comes to television or video rights, 3D isn’t actually an attraction, given that 3D television is not yet commonplace,” said Film Asia sales rep Dirkson Yu. The company is currently pushing the $5 million Malaysian horror film The Hunter 3D, billed as the first full 3D film produced in Southeast Asia, starring Korea’s transgender actress Harisu (Color Blossoms).

If there is one genre sellers believe is most suited to 3D treatment, it’s animation. Legend of a Rabbit 3D from China, despite having sold in 60-plus territories, is making an appearance at the Asian Film Market, suggesting there is still sales potential for the children's title. “I don’t think 3D is for every film, but it works for animated films,” said Dene Anderberg, vp sales and operations at Los Angeles-based CMG, which is pushing the $20 million animation Zambezia 3D in Busan. “Some people don’t like to wear the glasses, and others are overwhelmed by 3D. If it works it works, you don’t have to force it.”