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TOPIC: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens

Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 11 Mar 2008 09:10 #18036

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hollywood took a big step Tuesday toward offering more movies in 3-D, announcing deals to convert as many as 10,000 more theater screens for the digital technology needed to accommodate the resurgent, eye-popping format.

Access Integrated Technologies Inc. said it had reached agreements with four studios — Disney, News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox, Viacom Inc.'s Paramount, and Universal Pictures, which is owned by General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal — to finance and equip the screens in the U.S. and Canada during the next three years.

The conversion will cost as much as $700 million, said Bud Mayo, chief executive of Access Integrated Technologies, which completed a first tranche of 3,700 digital conversions in October.

The announcement came during the kickoff of ShoWest, a conference in Las Vegas where studios unveil clips and other details about upcoming movie lineups.

Hollywood is anxious to convert as many theaters as possible to the digital format, which provides sharper images while eliminating the need for expensive celluloid film. It also allows theater companies to offer live events and shows from other venues.

The digital technology can also be used to show 3-D movies with the addition of software and hardware costing about $25,000 per year for each screen.

"Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert," a 3-D movie, pulled in $31.3 million in its opening weekend, an impressive feat because it played on only 683 screens, compared with many wide-release films that open on more than 3,000 screens and make half as much.

"We were in as many locations as we could possibly get," said Chuck Viane, president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. "If there were 3,000 3-D screens available, would we have played them all? Yeah, I think we would."

Even "Chicken Little," the first ever animated 3-D movie released in November 2005, made $23,864 per screen, compared with $10,949 for the 2-D version.

At least 30 more 3-D movies are in the pipeline from Hollywood, including this summer's adaptation of Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

Theaters owners and studios hope the offerings will help bring people back to multiplexes for an experience that cannot be matched by increasingly sophisticated home theater systems.

The theater industry is also battling competition from video games and other alternative entertainment along with Internet movie downloads.

The push to convert screens had been bogged down by a number of issues, including the shaky credit market that has threatened to increase costs even further.

"It's just been maybe slower than anticipated," said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Drew Crum.

Thus far, about 4,000 screens — just 10 percent of the estimated 38,000 screens in the U.S. and Canada — have been outfitted with digital technology.

Only about 1,040 of those screens are now outfitted to show 3-D movies.

Interest in 3-D has come and gone since the 1950s, but studios began to take the format seriously again after a 3-D version of 2004's "The Polar Express" from Warner Bros. grossed more than $45 million.

A number of high-profile filmmakers now have 3-D projects in the works, including James Cameron and Tim Burton.

Walt Disney Co. is making "Toy Story 3" in 3-D and plans to rerelease the first two "Toy Story" films in the trilogy in the format.

Box office figures have shown the submersive effect of 3-D can attract two to three times more moviegoers who are willing to pay as much as $3 more per ticket, Crum said.

Along with digital projection, today's 3-D technology makes use of polarized lenses rather than the flimsy red and green cardboard cutouts of the past that could cause nausea and headaches.

In October, Access Integrated Technologies completed a two-year effort to retrofit multiplex screens at a cost of nearly $280 million — about $75,000 per screen.

AccessIT is recouping the cost from studios over the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, theater chains are ponying up as much as $25,000 a year per screen to technology firm REAL D for the software, physical upgrades and maintenance that makes it possible to show 3-D movies.

The current dearth of screens has caused some short-term kinks.

The 3-D concert movie featuring U2 took in only $4.8 million because the tail end of its run was trampled by the Hannah Montana juggernaut, which took up most of the available 3-D screens.

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. said last month it pushed back the release of its "How to Train Your Dragon" by four months to March 2010 to avoid competing for 3-D screens with James Cameron's hotly anticipated feature film "Avatar."

The logjam has only ramped up the pressure to cut deals.

A second financing vehicle called Digital Cinema Implementation Partners was formed last March by the three largest theater exhibitors, Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment Inc. and Cinemark Holdings Inc. with plans to outfit their 14,500 theaters with digital technology.

"We, the exhibitors, and most of the studios want to make things happen so we can support what is a major commitment by multiple parties to the 3-D space," he said. "It's going to happen."
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 11 Mar 2008 11:49 #18037

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That's nice.

Where am I going to pull that $25,000 per year for each screen from? So, I'll save a little in shipping costs, but that isn't anywhere near $25,000 per screen for me.

I think they are in a pipe dream regarding 3-D. Everyone under 14 wanted to see Hannah Montana. They would have paid to see it in 2-D, too. I just think that after the initial,successful 3-D honeymoon the uniqueness will wear off and people will go back to their couches. Then the studios will have to just make better movies.

I am not saying there aren't good movies out there. It's just, in my opinion, most of the really good movies are made for a small percentage of the movie-going public. How many tickets did the Academy Award movies sell? If they directed more time and effort to a wider audience their product would be financially more lucrative.

Like the article alluded to, we don't need a glut of movies (mediocre), we need fewer, better quality ones. Once they stack those 3-D movies on top of each other, and have "live events and shows from other venues" playing in theatres, nothing will have changed except the amount of money the studios save in distribution and the amount of money theatres pay extra for exhibition.

Just my opinion.
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 12 Mar 2008 10:13 #18038

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By DAVID M. HALBFINGER
Published: March 12, 2008

LAS VEGAS — Eager to get American cinema complexes ready for a surge in 3-D movies next year, four major Hollywood studios announced on Tuesday a deal to subsidize the conversion of 10,000 theaters to digital projection systems.

The announcement, at ShoWest, the annual trade show that gathers theater owners and movie distributors here, overlooked one point: the theaters that could be converted under the deal have yet to agree to it.

The motion picture industry is racing to roll out digital projectors, not just because they avoid the costly printing and shipping of reels of film, but also because they’re needed to show the current generation of 3-D films, which have often been bonanzas at the box office. One, “Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert,” generated $31 million its opening weekend on only 683 screens, about one-fifth as many as the typical wide release.

Under the deal announced on Tuesday, the Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and Universal all agreed to pay “virtual print fees” for each movie they distribute digitally to the participating theaters. Theater owners will use the fees to buy the projectors, servers and other equipment needed — about $75,000 for each auditorium.

Also on Tuesday, Paramount executives confirmed that “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” would be released digitally, though its director, Steven Spielberg, has long insisted that his movies be released exclusively on film. Every movie that earned more than $100 million last year was released both digitally and on film.

Access Integrated Technologies concluded a first round of 3,740 theater conversions last year. It now must go out and sell its systems to other cinema owners. It has three years to accomplish those installations; the studios will pay the virtual print fees for up to 10 years.

The size of these virtual print fees was not disclosed, but one person involved said it would be around $800 per movie, per theater — down from about $1,000 in the first phase.

Chuck Viane, president of distribution at Disney, said the studios were insistent that theater owners cover more of the cost of converting, including maintenance. “We’ve always felt that exhibition had to have some skin in the game,” he said.

The announcement came as, in a separate deal, the nation’s three largest theater chains — Regal, Cinemark and AMC — were negotiating for what Variety reported would be a $1.1 billion line of credit to finance the conversion of their theaters to digital cinema. The three, bargaining as Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, own about 14,000 of the nation’s 37,000 screens.
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 14 Mar 2008 12:04 #18039

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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by BurneyFalls:
Where am I going to pull that $25,000 per year for each screen from?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

You don't.

Digital, for now, is meant for the megaplexes, not the little 1-6 screeners. Digital only saves the studios money- it does nothing for the theater owners. As the article said, AMC, Cinemark, and Regal alone own almost 40% of the screens in the US, so it pays for the studios to woo them.
"In a place like this, the magic is all around you. The trick is to see it." -Martin Landau
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 14 Mar 2008 17:11 #18040

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Hopefully the ShoWest attendees will have something positive to add here. A small chain with a three screen not too far from here is all digital as are all of their sites--none megaplexes. I think it is going to be awhile, but when the time comes we will either be in the game or off the team.
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 15 Mar 2008 18:36 #18041

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3-D now adays is so real it is really entertaining. But do you want to wear those glasses and experience that with every movie. I think 1-3 releases a year will be fine but cinema should be 2-D to be taken seriously.
It is a gimic and should not overtake traditional cinema.
Seems like every decade they try this 3-D and it works for awhiel than fizzes.
But only time can tell!
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 15 Mar 2008 20:00 #18042

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3d push at SHOWEST was every where.

1st the new 3d is great....But it is only application long term is kids.(imop)
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 16 Mar 2008 12:47 #18043

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3D - even in digital form - is still just another "gimmick". And like every other theatrical gimmick of the last 50 years, Digital 3D will last only as long as there is product available.

As BurneyFalls correctly noted, the people who flocked to Hanna Montana would have paid to see it whether or not is was in 3D. Sooner or later - when the spotlight on the "new technology" has dimmed - cost-cutting beancounters take over and decide why waste the money making the product in 3D when we can get the same return for less in 2D.

This "gimmick" scenario has been repeated over and over again - with the exhibitor who leaped on the bandwagon being stuck with a closet full of expensive equipment suitable only for a projector museum (e.g. Cinerama, 70MM, dual projector 3D, Mag stereo etc, etc). With regard to Digital 3D, I can't help but see deja vu.

It is important to remember that any technology is only good: (i) for as long as a manufacturer is willing (or still in business) to support it and (ii) there are competent service people to maintain it.

Say what you will about 35MM projectors: they are generally built like a rock; require only minimal routine maintenance; and much of the routine maintenance can be performed by the in-house personnel. It is said that 35MM projectors are like old Cadillacs in Cuba - they just keep going and going. This in one of the primary reasons that small mom-and-pop theaters have been able to survive.

Given the ever accelerating evolution in digital technology I don't see the same thing holding true for digital projection. I predict that those digital projectors installed today will soon join the backroom scrapheap. Not to mention the fact that an owner can no longer perform his own maintenance.

Look at the people who bought SDDS. How long did that system last before Sony decided to abandon support of it. Just a more recent example of the same problem.
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 16 Mar 2008 15:28 #18044

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A theater can do its own maintenance if they buy the projectors.Manditory maintenance is only if you lease.
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 16 Mar 2008 19:27 #18045

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Lease? Haven't read anything about leasing.
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 18 Mar 2008 23:04 #18046

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In follow-up to my previous post above about the cost benefits of 3D, I find the following article from today's IMDB to be insightful:

3-D 'Clone Wars'? It's Not Happening, Says Lucas

Although numerous filmmakers and studio executives have been forecasting that 3-D movies will become the wave of the future, with several animation units being converted to 3-D productions exclusively, George Lucas has not joined the 3-D boosters' club. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly magazine, Lucas said that his August 15 release of the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the theatrical version of his Cartoon Network series, will not be presented in 3-D, despite numerous reports to the contrary. His reasoning? "Well, you know, it's expensive," he told the magazine, "and we felt that everybody kind of looks at the downside: It would cost twice as much to do it in 3-D as it did to do the movie in the first place. So you say, "Well, gosh, do you think we're going to get that much more out of it?"
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 19 Mar 2008 11:44 #18047

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Lease? Haven't read anything about leasing.

That's if AccessIT installs your projector with money provided by studio VPFs. In that scenario, you don't really own the machine, the bank does. Figure $2,000 to $3,000/year/screen plus bulbs.

Also, as far as I can tell, this is only being offered to full-time, first-run houses that open enough new product, so that the VPF income to the equipment manufacturer covers payments on the gear.
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 27 Mar 2008 10:09 #18048

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Lionsgate has announced that they will start filming on a remake of that 1981 stalwart cinematic classic "My Bloody Valentine" - although this time it will be made in Digital 3-D and called "My Bloody Valentine 3-D"

It was this sort of crap that killed 3-D in the 50's and cut short its revival in the 80's. Will Hollywood never learn?

I guess its just par for the course from the studio who invented the torture porn genre.
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Re: Deal Clears Way for More 3-D Screens 27 Mar 2008 11:54 #18049

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Look at the people who bought SDDS. How long did that system last before Sony decided to abandon support of it. Just a more recent example of the same problem.
.

If Sony supported SDDS like Dolby supported their equipment, I think their system would still be on the market.

If you read the other forums, all you hear about with SDDS is problems with playback, maintenance and support... and that was before the system was dropped.

We've been in theatres with SDDS. When it worked it was as good as anything else. When it didn't, the mid-show failures were always much more spectacular than anything I've heard with Dolby or DTS.
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