Exhibitors get 3D education

ShoWest seminar filled to overflowing

LAS VEGAS -- Interest in 3D cinema in the wake of boxoffice tsunami "Avatar" is sending exhibitors back to the classroom.

A ShoWest University seminar in theater and booth presentation for 3D was filled to overflowing here Tuesday. It was the kind of specs-and-all presentation traditionally offered at the annual ShoWest exhibition confab, along with keynote speeches on loftier topics and screenings of upcoming movies.

Digital cinema vet and blogger Bill Mead kicked things off with an overview of the four main digital 3D systems: RealD, Dolby, Xpand and Masterimage.

Technicolor and Oculus offer competing film-based 3D systems.

"A valid argument can be made for any of these systems, depending on the needs of any individual customer," Mead told a conference room packed with exhibs and tech-company reps.

RealD dominates the domestic 3D market, with the four companies carving up the rest of the world a bit more evenly. RealD leases thousands of systems to the biggest circuits, but the three rival 3D companies offer plans tailored to exhibs wishing to purchase systems outright.

Lighting and image resolution figure in discussions when the systems are compared and contrasted among prospective purchasers, and maintenance issues can also be key. Mead suggested Hollywood studios also play a part in quality control, when they decide what movies to make in 3D and how to do so.

"Anybody can do 3D, but it's hard to do 3D well," he said. "When it's used as a gimmick creatively, it makes for problems in the long run. It might work well for a two-minute demo but not for a two-hour feature."

Separately this week, Dolby announced it has reduced the price of its reusable 3D glasses to $17 per pair from a previous $27.50.

"Since our market entry just over two years ago, Dolby has shipped more than 3,200 3D systems to over 400 exhibitor partners in 67 countries," Dolby vp sales John Carey said. "This growth in the number of Dolby 3D equipped digital cinemas around the world has enabled us to reduce the price of our glasses further."