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Exhibitors discuss 2-D, 3-D events

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LAS VEGAS -- For some exhibitors, it is live events -- not feature films -- that has them most excited about 3-D.

"Our goal is live," Tim Richards, CEO of U.K.-based Vue Cinemas, said Wednesday at ShoWest during a panel session that explored alternative content. Talking about his experience with 2-D live content, including sporting events, concerts and operas, he added, "Our guests will pay a premium -- in some cases 30%-100% more -- for these screenings."

Tom Stephenson, president and CEO of Dallas-based Rave Motion Pictures, believes there needs to be a 3-D component to showing live events.

"I personally think the future of putting a 2-D image on the screen is not the growth part of this business," he said. "If it is transformed (into 3-D), I believe this business gets a lot better. They are very close to being able to do that, and that will open up many doors."

Said Ellis Jacob, president and CEO of Canada's Cineplex Entertainment: "This business would grow dramatically if the studios get into the business, and I think they will. With those organizations you have some of the largest marketing machines in the world. I think when they embrace alternative content ... because they own a lot of those channels, you are going to see a huge change in 3-D sports entertainment and alternative events. ... (Today) we are just scratching the surface."

Current issues related to screening live events include production costs and rights.

As to technical costs, Richards said that once the infrastructure is installed, "satellite cost is probably the biggest single cost. The good news (is that this business is in its infancy and) there are no set rules. ... A number of the (concert) acts take a pragmatic approach and think of this as a marketing activity. We have everything from no change to a charge (for rights)."

Scale also is a consideration. "In some cases, the producer or event coordinators are not interested in the small amount of money a circuit can generate," Stephenson said. "Unless it is done on a much larger scale, it becomes difficult."

Looking ahead, Richards suggested that the "biggest untapped potential" in alternative content is video games. He pointed out that games are not time sensitive, therefore they would not need to interfere with prime theatergoing hours -- a concern voiced by some exhibitors.