Three-Dimensional Rose-Colored Glasses?

ShoWest film expo sees a bright future in 3-D movies

Although they’ve existed in various forms since 1890, 3-D films have never been taken too seriously. Well, not until 2009, when seven 3-D titles passed the $100 million mark. Topping that list was Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time.

With these successes fresh on everyone’s mind, 3-D films were a hot topic at ShoWest, the convention that brings together movie theater owners and distribution companies (March 15-18 at Bally’s and Paris). The behind-the-scenes event is all about discussing current trends and concerns, as well as a way for theater owners to preview upcoming films, products, services and technologies. This year’s main concern was getting movie watchers to leave their computer screens and plop their butts in theater seats. The solution: more than 20 3-D films getting wide releases this year.

“This is the seventh time 3-D has been reintroduced to the public since its invention,” says Rhett Adam, director of Look3D, a company promoting designer 3-D glasses at ShowWest. “But now technology has met the demand. It’s exciting times.”

The risk-taking Warner Brothers is tossing Clash of the Titans (debuting April 2) on the 3-D bandwagon. The film was shot in 2-D and converted over the course of 10 weeks. Depending on how well it performs, many more 2-D films might be converted to 3-D. Disney’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which hits screens in May, is a good candidate, as is Warner’s July release Inception, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to his 2008 IMAX monster The Dark Knight.

With fewer than 4,000 digital screens across North America, movie theaters might need to play catch-up. During his ShoWest convention address, Motion Picture Association of America CEO Dan Glickman said some 2,500 digital screens are set to be installed before the year’s end. But even better news was revealed over the course of the four-day event as Technicolor 3D, SoliDDD and Oculus3D, displayed new systems that allow existing 35mm projectors to show 3-D.

Also in full force at ShoWest were companies promoting designer 3-D glasses. MicroVision Optical goes as far as selling 3-D specs that double as sunglasses. They also come in prescription lenses.

“3-D is here to stay,” says David Stern of MicroVision. “Not only in filmed entertainment, but the live events are going to be huge as well.” Stern notes that events such as the upcoming NCAA Final Four—which will screen via the innovations of Cinedigm on April 3 and 5 at Rave Motion Pictures—give the crowd experience people can’t get at home.

Of course, designer 3-D glasses will also come in handy when 3-D television and 3-D video games become the norm in home entertainment. Once that happens, what will be the next trend at the multiplexes to bring in the crowds? Guy Marcoux says his company D-Box has the answer. His company goes frame-by-frame to program seat movements that match the action on screen. In its first year, D-Box has motion coded 14 films (six from Warner Brothers, including Clash of the Titans) and installed seats in 15 theaters across the country, including Galaxy at the Cannery in North Las Vegas.

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