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3D cinema has arrived, says James Cameron

11 May 2006

Academy Award winning director James Cameron (Titanic, T2: Judgment Day,) believes that digital cinema projection is on its way to becoming a reality – and during his keynote at the recent NAB Digital Cinema Summit in Las Vegas he encouraged the audience to use this technology to energise the movie industry and bring audiences into the theatres, writes Carolyn Giardina.

Specifically, he suggested that this could be accomplished with 3D. The director declared a renaissance in 3D – not the 3D of years past that was fraught with problems, but a quality experience enabled by new digital projection technology that he called "a Godsend."

"3D might be the most important part of the Digital Cinema strategy," Cameron asserted. "3D is a specific and marketable reason to put in Digital Cinema screens… its something that will intrigue the public’s imagination."

He brought very specific reasons why he believes this would occur. For example, Cameron pointed out that six months ago, Disney’s Chicken Little was presented in 3D on 85 Digital Cinema screens in the US – 2 percent of the total number of theaters offering the movie – and those screens generated 10 percent of the films North American gross. "The 3D theatres sold out first and more often," he explained.

To emphasise this point, Cameron also noted that the IMAX version of Sony Pictures’ The Polar Express represented 2 percent of the screens that offered the film and generated 25 percent of the gross revenues.

With Digital Cinema installations growing, Cameron commented, "there could be tens of thousands of digital cinema projectors, which could run 3D much less expensively that IMAX."

Still, the director was quick to point out that "this needs to be driven by content, not format." So Cameron identified what is in the works, including Disney’s upcoming Meet the Robinsons in 3D, and Sony’s Monster House in 3D. Cameron delved into 3D when he directed his 2002 3D IMAX feature Ghosts of the Abyss, and he has additional titles on the way.

In addition to new titles, he pointed out that there are emerging methods of remastering exists films for 3D projection. "I’m looking at doing Titanic and T2, and maybe some others," Cameron reported. "Peter Jackson is looking at doing King Kong and The Lord of the Rings, and George Lucas is looking to do Star Wars."

Cameron does not believe this will be a fad. Instead, he suggested that, "the new wave of 3D movies will be the best commercial films of the year – movies that you would have seen anyway." He added that digital cinema projection could also prompt new opportunities. For instance, he suggested, "Digital Cinema projectors can received live feeds and digital cameras can shoot live – so this can allow people to participate in world events in 3D."

"When the theatres and content are in place, it’s going to drive the economics," Cameron concluded. "I think every major studio will be asking how many titles [can be made in a year]… and there will be a proliferation of filmmakers who want to create titles."

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