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Monday, November 14, 2005

And now, the stat you've been waiting for...

In today's LA Times, columnist Michael Hiltzik asks the question, `Has digital cinema finally found its killer app?' The article presents some solid evidence that 3-D could help push digital projection into hundreds or thousands of theaters.

First: The 3-D version `Chicken Little' has been more successful at filling theaters than the 2-D version:

    The film grossed about $11,000 per screen at conventional theaters during its first weekend, but $25,000 per screen at more than 80 locations showing the 3-D version. The difference can't be accounted for by the extra $1 to $1.50 some 3-D theaters tacked onto admission prices, and if it held up this past weekend, the excitement in the digital-cinema community will be palpable.

The theater-owners' spokesman still isn't convinced that audiences will ever want anything new:

    "It's nice value added," John Fithian, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, told me, choosing his words carefully. He scoffs at the contention of some 3-D mavens that the digital process will turn 2-D movies into historical artifacts like silent pictures. 3-D waves have come and passed in Hollywood since the '30s, and no one knows whether this one will be any different. "As a technical proposition it is way cool," he says. "As an economic proposition it clearly doesn't work everywhere." Real D's system effectively adds as much as $50,000 to the per-screen cost of digital conversion.

And even tech companies were slow to realize that 3-D could be a selling point, observes In-Three founder Michael Kaye:

    For years, [Kaye] says, 3-D's potential as a selling point for digital cinema eluded the studios and even Texas Instruments Inc., which manufactures the industry-leading digital cinema technology.

    "We told TI that people didn't know their projectors could do 3-D," Kaye recalls. "And TI told us they didn't think 3-D would sell digital projectors."

Kaye's company is "dimensionalizing" films that were shot in 2-D, like the original "Star Wars" trilogy... and perhaps also Peter Jackson's forthcoming "King Kong," according to this piece in the Hollywood Reporter.

Sheigh Crabtree writes, "...the betting is...a 3-D `Kong' will appear in theaters several months into the movie's run." Cool.