Canada keeping pace with 3-D

In step with U.S. rollout as other nations lag

MONTREAL -- Canada has a habit of lagging far behind the U.S. as it introduces new digital platforms, in part to avoid the costly mistakes of early adopters.

But when it comes to 3-D cinema, Canada is more than keeping pace with the American rollout, John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, told ShowCanada attendees Friday.

As talk of 3-D technology dominated the last day of the annual gathering of Canadian theater owners, Fithian said that 130 of the 222 existing digital screens in Canada already have 3-D capabilities.

And while there are currently 2,030 3-D-capable screens stateside, Canada represents 10% of what is considered the domestic cinema market, which puts it in step with the 3-D rollout south of the border.

"The U.S. and Canada are the two fastest movers in 3-D, while the rest of the world is really slow," Fithian told ShowCanada delegates.

He added that just 1,100 of the world's roughly 120,000 screens are currently 3-D.

Landmark Cinemas COO Neil Campbell said he was surprised by the way Canadians have embraced the new technology, even in smaller communities like Kelowna, in the British Columbia interior.

"The public has embraced 3-D, and it's been a nice surprise," he told a 3-D panel.

Fithian noted that it costs about $70,000 to transform a screen to digital and another $30,000 to 3-D. The exhibition industry has received help in the transition to digital through video print fees from the studios, while the 3-D component has been left solely to theater owners.

But Fithian added that theater owners can recoup the 3-D investment quickly owing to premium pricing for 3-D movies, and more people flocking to the new medium.

ShowCanada was set to wrap Friday night with a 3-D screening of the upcoming "Star Trek" movie.