Tuesday, March 11, 2008

DreamWorks' Katzenberg betting big on 3-D

By Sue Zeidler
34 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -
DreamWorks Animation SKG Chief
Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg is betting on 3-D films to the
tune of $30 million a year in the hope of bringing a dramatic
bump to flat U.S. movie attendance.

"Clearly I'm putting my money where my mouth is and the
company's bet on it," said Katzenberg in an interview at his
headquarters a day before making his pitch to movie exhibitors
in Las Vegas at the annual ShoWest conference.

DreamWorks' 3-D initiative, using proprietary technology
and processes, has been in the works for about 18 months and
will make its theatrical debut on March 27, 2009 with "Monsters
vs. Aliens."

A studio tour revealed more and better special effects than
the handful of stunts in 3-D of decades ago. Also, concert
movies in 3-D give a feeling closer to being in a live
audience, as fans pop off the screen and the band appears
staggered on the stage with more realistic depth.

Citing the recent success of Walt Disney Co's "Hannah
" 3-D concert film, Katzenberg has said he not only
anticipates 3-D to bring more people back to theaters, but that
people will pay sizable premiums to watch these films.

"There has not been anything that's come along now for the
better part of 50 years that has created an opportunity to get
more people to go to a movie theater in a meaningful way," he
told Reuters.

The new technology could increase the number of people who
go to the movies, he said. While U.S. box office revenue was up
last year, attendance barely budged.

"DreamWorks isn't using 3-D as a gimmick," Katzenberg said.
"By applying more of a live-action filmmaking sensibility to
our digitally animated three-dimensional films, we can fully
immerse moviegoers into the world of the story, he added.

One of the hurdles facing the industry has been the speed
of uptake by cinemas. Some industry experts have cited concerns
about whether there will be enough 3-D equipped screens to
accommodate a heavy slate of upcoming 3-D titles, including:
Disney-Pixar's "Toy Story 3," DreamWorks' "Monsters vs.
Aliens," and "Avatar" from "Titanic" director James Cameron.

Katzenberg is optimistic that over the next few years, the
amount of 3-D product will coincide with the number of theaters
taking on 3-D capabilities.

Several studios and the Digital Cinema Implementation
Partners, wholly owned by theater chains Regal Entertainment
, Cinemark Holdings Inc and AMC Entertainment Inc, which
collectively operate more than 14,000 screens, are nearing a
$1.1 billion financing deal to deploy in cinemas digital

About 1,000 cinema screens worldwide have 3-D systems, and
the number is projected to hit 4,000 by 2009, according to
Michael Lewis, chairman of Real D, whose digital projection 3-D
technology was used in most theaters showing "Hannah Montana."

About 4,000 of the 37,000 cinema screens in the United
States are currently digitally equipped, industry experts

The ultimate aim within the industry is to transform all
125,000 screens worldwide to digital projection. Once outfitted
with digital projectors, theaters can add 3-D capabilities.

"I want to be able to release a movie in 7,000 screens in
the U.S. exclusively in 3-D, that's my goal," said Katzenberg.

(Reporting by Sue Zeidler, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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