3D Expo Seeks to Explain New Technology to China

Former WB China Chief Eliasoph Backs 3D Film Push

BEIJING -- Following the eye-popping success of Avatar in China and the recent flop of China’s latest homegrown 3D film, Don Quixote, Ellen Eliasoph, the former head of Warner Bros. China and Bai Qiang, the founder of a new company called 3D-China, have teamed up to explain and promote the technology shaking Hollywood to the China’s burgeoning film industry and the growing masses of Chinese middle-class moviegoers.

Together with the government of the biggest city district in China’s capital, Eliasoph and Bai on Thursday launched the 1st 3D Creation Expo in the 250-seat state-of the art 3ality 3D theater at the Chaoyang Museum of Urban Planning.

Free to the public through Sunday, the expo will feature rock concert film U2 3D, a 3D promotional video from the U.S. Air Force, a 3D U.S college football game from ABC Disney’s ESPN between Indiana and Michigan and a film about a Chinese fashion show called Catwalk 3D.

The expo comes at a time when China’s box office, up 86% in the first half of this year, is boosted in large part by Hollywood blockbusters such as Avatar, which grossed $204 million here, more in China than any territory outside the U.S. Much of that film’s success was on China’s some 800 3D screens, where tickets went for upwards of 100 yuan ($15) each.

After the failure of Chinese director A Gan’s 3D movie Don Quixote, which was pulled from screens quickly after its Oct. 15 premiere, Bai said there was much work to be done for Chinese 3D to catch up with Hollywood. “It somewhat shakes the confidence of Chinese movie industry in doing 3D,” Bai told The Hollywood Reporter. “The pure domestic attempts on 3D have not been very eager.”

To encourage the development and domestic use of the technology, the 3D Creation Expo also will feature a short film called Hi from Hollywood, produced by film students at the University of Southern California now taking the classes of professor Michael Peyser, producer of U2 3D, among other films.

The expo, which initially drew about 175 guests, mostly young Chinese film producers, filmmakers and students, was scheduled to kick off with talks about 3D technology and the potential growth in the industry. A talk on the importance of storytelling to any film, 2D or 3D, was set to include Creative Artists Agency China president Peter Loehr, City of Life and Death director Lu Chuan, Greg Basser, CEO, Village Roadshow Entertainment Group and Qian Chong Yuan, director of the film department of Beijing Forbidden City Film Co.

Other guest panelists included Chen Xiaowei, CEO of Chengtian, the company that recently bought a stake in Hollywood’s Legendary Pictures, and Billy Wu, CEO of Technicolor China.

“Everybody’s interested in 3D production, but the workflow is not yet standardized so we have lots of room for improvement,” said Zhang Jianlong, who goes by Stego, general manager of new Beijing-based 3D production company d+. D+ is now doing the 3D work on Hong Kong director Tsui Hark’s Bona Film Group remake of the classic martial arts film The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, starring Hollywood crossover star Jet Li.

China’s overall ticket sales soared 86% to $714 million from January through June and are sure to shatter 2009's record box office take of $909 million.

“Twenty years ago when I started working in movies in Asia, Japan was the important territory,” said Eliasoph, now managing director of law firm Covington and Burling. “Now, it’s China and 3D is an important part of this industry’s growth.”