Reasoning for 3-D cinema push hits home


LONDON -- In Michel Gondry's "The Science of Sleep," the main character Stephane, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, expresses a wish to make a living as an inventor. He tells Stephanie, Charlotte Gainsbourg's character, that he has invented 3-D vision glasses for everyday life. "Isn't that how we see life anyway, in 3-D?" comes the swift response. A slightly sheepish Stephane maintains his invention is fun and speedily takes back the cardboard shades.

For 2008, exhibitors and distributors alike across the globe are hoping the coming year is the year we all become reacquainted with the new-look 3-D cinema. Report after report after report is pushing 3-D cinema as the next "theatrical experience," billing it as the great rejuvenator for moviegoing. Distributors, marketeers and exhibitors are all saying it's "a seeing is believing" movie experience, and top-notch talent from James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are donning the not-so-ridiculous eyeware to make films in the format.

Part of the attraction is that you can't replicate the experience in your own home. For years now, audiences have been splashing the cash on home entertainment systems with digital surround sound, high-definition televisions and upscale DVD formats before turning front rooms into mini-auditoriums. Hell, folks can even get a popcorn maker and buy confectionary from the local store to save money and ensure the carpet has bits trampled into it.

So here's the point with 3-D: Industry pundits are saying you can't replicate 3-D theater going in your front room. Not yet anyway. But let's approach 2008 with a word of warning. Speaking recently to Arts Alliance Media, the U.K.-based digital distribution supplier, made for interesting conversation. It seems that 3-D technology for the home is not a pie-in-the-sky wish and it isn't nearly as far away in becoming a reality for some as exhibitors and distributors hope.

Putting an extra lamp behind a silver screen or adding the memory chips and lens to projectors may be a financial commitment for exhibition chains across the globe but at least it'll provide consumers with an unique theater experience, right? Well, for a time, sure, but not for long.

Technology experts point to the fact that ancillary sales -- of DVDs and the like -- will require consumers to be able to get close to what they saw in the cinemas to buy them. The lucrative but slowing ancillary market, which often peps up a movie title's earnings sheet, will not want to miss out. Which is why the technology is just around the corner. Perhaps Stephane in "Sleep" didn't need to look as sheepish as he did after all.

Stuart Kemp can be reached at