Tag Archives: Digital 3D

Box Office Review-Sunday 14 June

up_07Two of the current top three highest grossing films of the year in North America are digital 3D releases.
In its third week in release, Disney/Pixar’s wonderful “Up” brought in an estimated $30.5 million for a $187.2 million total gross, making it the third highest total in North America this year so far, behind DreamWorks Animation’s “Monsters Vs. Aliens” with $195.2 million and Paramount’s leader “Star Trek” with $232 million.
Also this weekend at the North American box office, Warners’ comedy “The Hangover” held on to the number one slot with an estimated $33.4 million, taking it over $100 million.
“Up” finished second and Sony’s debut “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” finished third with an estimated $25 million.
In the 3D arena, Vivendi opened “Call of the Wild 3D’ this weekend on 14 screens, earning only an estimated $10,500.

Box Office Review-Sunday 31 May “Up Lifts 3D”

up_07Disney/Pixar’s stunning “Up” gave digital 3D a high profile lift this weekend, soaring to No. 1 at the North American box office with an estimated $68.2 million. The film opened in 3,766 theaters, including a record 1,534 3D theaters.
This surpassed the opening weekend domestic gross of DreamWorks Animation’s “Monsters Vs. Aliens,” which debuted with $59.3 million in March, although with fewer 3D theaters (an estimated 1,300). Since opening weekend, DWA was able to keep many of the 3D theaters, allowing it to stay in the top 10 until it had to relinquish most of the screens to “Up.” This weekend, DWA’s animated comedy played in 566 theaters—down from 1,434 last week—and added an estimated $315,000 for a $194.4 million total domestic gross.
Next, 3D stakeholders will get a glimpse of what the still limited number of digital 3D screens might mean to box office totals as a string of 3D titles prepare to open.
“Monsters” had the majority of 3D theaters for a couple of months and demonstrated that it had legs. “Up”—while it had more screens at the start—faces a more crowded upcoming 3D release schedule.
“Call of the Wild 3D” is scheduled for a June 12 opening, but Fox’s anticipated 3D release of “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” is one month away with a July 1 opening date. That still leaves four more weekends for “Up” to have the majority of 3D screens, but it is a far shorter window than “Monsters” enjoyed.
“Ice Age” will then face a similar situation, as the Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer 3D release “G-Force” debuts on July 24.
Also this weekend at the North American box office, estimates suggest that Fox’s “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” finished second with $25.5 million, ahead of new release “Drag Me to Hell ($16.6 million), Terminator Salvation ($16.1 million), and “Star Trek” ($12.8 million).
“Star Trek” crossed the $200 million mark with an estimated $209.5 total domestic gross.

Digital Faces Critical (Archiving) Dilemma

digital_dilemma_cover1

“The Digital Dilemma”—a 2007 report from AMPAS’ SciTech Council that examines the challenges of archiving and accessing digital motion picture materials—was the subject of the SMPTE’s Hollywood Section May meeting, held at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood.

The report concludes that there is no long-term strategy for archiving and preserving digital assets that doesn’t require large capital investment.

Andy Maltz, director of the SciTech Council, reported that in 2008 the worldwide box office reached $20 billion, but he estimated that only 0.0015% of that amount was spent on addressing this dilemma. He emphasized that much more needs to be done.

During the evening, Maltz presented an overview of the report and an update on its impact since its release. He generated applause and laughter from an audience that has been inundated with 3D format talk when—in outlining the discussion objectives—he quipped “there will be nothing about stereoscopic movies tonight.”

Actually, he wasn’t entirely correct. He addressed AMPAS’ need to preserve digital content, citing as an example the increasing number of 3D titles that originate from and are/will be released in the digital realm. He also cited the ASC/DCI Standard Evaluation Material (Stem) and all Oscar-nominated films, which are archived by the Academy.

“Current technologies and practices are inadequate,” he said. “Periodically you will need to copy the digital media. Storage technology and operating technology will become obsolete.”

As to current investment, the report suggested that it costs $1,059 to preserve one film archival master for one year. In contrast, it estimated that annual cost of preserving a 4K digital master to be $12,514.

The SciTech Council is now working on what it calls a Digital Motion Picture Archival Framework, which would include the development and standardization of a file format, directed research, education and a follow up report on “The Digital Dilemma” for indie filmmakers and executives at public archives.

A very worthwhile read, “The Digital Dilemma” report can be downloaded from the AMPAS web site (here).

Digital Hollywood: Credit Market Starting to Recover

A group of 3D industry leaders shared varying opinions on the future of 3D—as well as their latest impressions of the credit market–during a panel yesterday at the Digital Hollywood confab in Los Angeles.

“The market has recovered a little since December,” said James Dix, analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities. “The credit market is clearly loosening up, although DCIP happening imminently is not likely.”

Cinedigm chairman/CEO Bud Mayo reported: “Cinedigm has already financed $300 million in conversions of digital screens and we expect to start again this summer. The VPFs are a model that is proven and we have the data to support it. Getting our lenders to put up money for a proven model is not that much of a challenge. It is the macro economics that are the challenge.”

Kerner New York’s chairman/CEO Neal Weinstock surprised some while addressed production costs, suggesting that “we think we can get the production budget only about $25,000 higher for 3D than 2D, for episodic TV. Television will be the lion’s share of the 3D business.”

Lenny Lipton predicted that all content would eventually be 3D. “We are seeing the domino effect with 3D. Genre by genre it will become necessary to attract audiences. Animation was the first. It appears that horror will be next.”

Citing the success of 2D blockbuster “The Dark Knight,” Imax’s Greg Foster disagreed, saying “3D is providing a benefit, but I don’t think you have to throw all your eggs in one basket.”

Mayo also doesn’t believe that all movies need to be 3D, but he did promote alternative content. “The opportunity of digital have very little to do with movies–it’s to complement movies. How do you fix the seats that are empty? The opportunity comes with doing other things along with movies.”

As an example, he reported that Cinedigm would be offering concerts as alternative content during the summer.

Foster reported that Imax is up to 90 digital installations. He added that at Imax screenings, the first 15 minutes of upcoming summer release “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” would be presented in 3D.

Moderator Marty Shindler of consulting firm The Shindler Perspective offered a screen count update: Over 7,000 digital cinema screens worldwide, 3500 of which are 3D ready.

‘Journey 3D’ to be released in, erhh, 2D

Journey 3DOne of the consequences of the absorption of New Line into Time Warner is that some new distribution strategies are being put into place. And someone at WB obviously feels that ‘Journey 3D‘ (aka ‘Journey To The Centre Of The Earth 3D’) will perform better at the box office if it is also released in 2D. Or so I’m told by someone with good connections at New Line.

Now there are those who have a point when they say that the ‘Hannah Montana’ 3D concert film would have made money even if it was shot on PixelVision, because of the built in audience. But does anyone think that ‘U2 3D‘ would have been less of a flop if it had also been available as ‘U2 2D’?

As for ‘Journey 3D’ the main 3D selling point is, as you might have guessed from the title, the fact that it is stereoscopic. As this review from Comingsoon.net of its screening at ShoWest tells you:

David Tuckerman, the President of New Line Theatrical Distribution, came out to introduce the movie, and told the audience that it was still planned for a July 11 release, although it will be distributed through Warner Bros. as per the new Time Warner plan. Director Eric Brevig then came out and said a few words and introduced two of the film’s stars, Brendan Fraser and newcomer Anita Briem, who said a few brief words before the movie started with very cool 3D versions of the New Line and Walden Media logos.

[T]he 3D does take some getting used to, maybe since they do a few too many gimmicky Uncle Floyd type shots of things flying at the camera, as well as a couple of 3D enhanced jump scares that actually did have me jumping a few times. Once the trio enters the underground world, the movie sometimes looks a bit too green screen with its CG, possibly a factor of the 3D, but Brevig and his FX team have done an amazing job building this fantastic underground world with scenes that often leave you truly wowed. The CG creatures aren’t the greatest in terms of design or execution, particularly the piranha-like fish creatures they face, and it’s surprising how primitive they are considering Brevig’s background, but there’s still a great sense of danger, adventure and most of all, fun, throughout the movie, which did make it an enjoyable experience. The end credits are also very cool, utilizing the 3D CG to create a neat recap of some of the film’s best moments.

For those of us who sat through the film at ShoWest, I’d say that this review is far too charitable. The characters are one dimensional, the dialogue hackneyed, the plot contrived and the action scenes derivative. Yours truly sat there the whole time thinking of how much greater it could have been of a real talent like Peter Jackson or Steven Spielberg had directed it, as opposed to some VFX hack making his directorial debut.

The one redeeming aspect was the 3D of what came across as the bastard offspring of a tired theme park ride crossed with a un-original platform computer game. And now this 3D aspect is going to be removed.

It makes the intro 3D spiel to the film preview come across as that much more ironic, as reported in The Salt Lake Tribune:

“It’s a force that cannot be ignored,” actor Brendan Fraser told reporters during ShoWest, the convention of movie-theater operators earlier this month in Las Vegas.

Fraser was promoting his summer movie, “Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D,” an update of the Jules Verne story that bills itself as the first-ever live-action film shot in digital 3D.

Fraser said his movie is “really kind of a beta of where cinema is headed.”

Or not, as it turns out to be the case.

When this film flops, as I’m convinced it will, don’t expect anyone at New Line to shed any tears over WB’s improved distribution strategy.

Besides, 2008 will remain the placeholder year for digital 3D, which will not come into its own until 2009, when the likes of James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Pixar get behind it.

A Hannah Montana in your lap and a Miley Cyrus in your arms!

…was the tag-line that Disney sadly chose not to use for the digital 3D release of the concert film ‘Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour’ [Surely in questionable taste, given the target demographic? -Ed.]. Beating the digital 3D release of ‘U2 3D’ and counter-programming the Super Bowl weekend, the Hannah/Miley release straddles pre-recorded alternative content and 3D film. It is likely to do very good business (with record pre-sales already), though it is debatable whether this will prove the validity of digital 3D, cinema screenings of pop concerts or cross over from television, or all three.

A lot of column inches has been devoted to this phenomenon, nowhere more so than at the Hollywood Report, which examines the digital 3D production/post-production angle (‘Swift 3-D turnaround gives ‘Hannah’ a happening feel‘):

[Director Bruce] Hendricks says his aim was to focus on making a movie in terms of story and editing and not be intimidated by technology. He adds that some of his comfort with the format came from homework done over the years at the studio — Disney has been pioneering the digital 3-D format with such releases as “Chicken Little” and “Meet the Robinsons.” “Hannah Montana” happens to be the first live-action feature to open in digital 3-D.

3-D “events” are the next areas of exploration. As demonstrated with “Hannah Montana,” technology has reached a point where a production can be completed in a timely fashion. Meanwhile, distribution techniques have emerged that could enable live-event broadcasts to digital theaters.

“It’s very much in the near future,” Hendricks says. “It is being worked on for sporting events. I could even see concerts where live 3-D is broadcast.”

THR’s Carl DiOrio digs into the number of screens (not that many) and ticket price (pretty high) to try draw some conclusions about the films/event’s prospects (‘The tweens shall meet – ‘Hannah’ could draw $20 mil‘):

Disney’s “Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert” goes out in 3-D projection in 683 domestic locations, starting Friday. That’s just a fraction of the playdates of most other wide openers, but the screen count hardly tells the story of the studio’s extra-dimensional hopes for “Hannah.”

Indeed, “Hannah” — Montana is the performer’s TV show persona, Cyrus her real name — has a few things going for it that could help the concert film sing its way to No. 1 this weekend.

For starters, 3-D releases support higher ticket prices, and in “Hannah’s” case, exhibitors are expected to charge up to $15 per admission. That’s a particularly pricey ducat, considering that most ticketbuyers will be tweens and younger who normally would get a break from the adult-ticket price.

While the actual review of the HM/MC digital 3D happening acknowledges that it is pretty squarely aimed at the existing fan base and is thus unlikely to act as a warm up to ‘U2 3D’ in the next few weeks (‘Bottom Line: For the parents at least, this filmed concert is probably better than actually being there.‘):

Considering that it runs a scant 74 minutes — which includes numerous backstage scenes — the film clearly is not presenting the entirety of the live show. But it should offer enough to please most audiences, and director Bruce Hendricks has filmed the fast-paced musical action in sufficiently breathless fashion. As with the recent U2 concert film, the 3-D aspect — you’ll duck when the musicians throw guitar picks and drumsticks at the camera — adds greatly to the experience.

I will personally hold out for the first concert films that features a digital 3D stage dive.

U2′s digital 3D release dates announced

Bono in CannesNormally better known for distributing animal documentaries, National Geographics will be bringing U2 3D to digital stereoscopic cinemas in January 2008 world wide. (Cue the inevitable jokes about showcasing mammoth films about aging rock dinosaurs). Anyone who attended this year’s ShoWest, Cannes Film Festival, Cinema Expo, IBC or ShowEast can’t have failed to hear about it already, as it must be the most trailered music movie ever. According to the original article in Variety:

Concert pic was produced by 3ality Digital and directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington. Owens has been U2′s visual content director for more than 15 years, while Pellington directed the band’s “One” video.

“Digital 3-D is a new cinema medium that truly allows moviegoers to immerse themselves in the experience, energy and emotion of being in a prime seat at a U2 concert,” 3ality Digital CEO Sandy Climan said.

National Geographic Cinema Ventures prexy Lisa Truitt sad the release of “U2 3D” is a natural expansion of her division’s growing presence in theatrical distribution.

More details about this new direction for National Geographics was announced recently in th setting up of a new unit “that will incorporate National Geographic’s Cinema Ventures, Feature Films, Kids Entertainment, Home Entertainment and Music & Radio divisions.” Given that Beowulf will have finished playing in digital 3D by then and no other major digital 3D film will be out for some time the concert film should have its pick of the 1,000+ digital 3D screens in the US, with additional ones in Korea, UK and elsewhere.

In more traditional 2D digital news, it’s been also announced that Bon Jovi will play on more than 100 screens that are part of the Christie/AIX network on 6 November, while on 14 November Garth Brooks can be seen live on 24 Empire cinema screens in a joint event with National CineMedia’s Fathom:

“It’s things like this that make me praise technology. The gift that AEG and participating theatres have given me is to be able to go on a virtual tour without leaving home. How does it get any better than that?” said Garth Brooks.

Hmm… I suppose the only way technology could top that would be a 3D hologram of Bono that could be sent to every trouble spot in the world at the same time, without the singer himself ever having to leave Ireland.

IMAX goes for digital cinema and 3D in 4K

IMAX BeowulfLarge format (LF) exhibitor IMAX is slowly pulling the curtains back on its long-gestating plans for digital cinema and how to hang on to the 3D cinema market segment, just as digital 3D is about to go mainstream with ‘Beowulf‘.

Few people remember that IMAX was once going to conquer the digital cinema space when it bought UK projector maker Digital Projection International (DPI), which was on of the the three DLP Cinema(TM) licensees. Having failed in this venture and hived off DPI to NEC (who have made an only marginally better job of it), IMAX promised that they would still show the world IMAX-digital with their super-secret projector project. Then things went quiet for a long time. Until now.

At the recently concluded ShowEast IMAX announced that it l install the first prototypes of its digital technology in mid-2008 in three of its theatres. According to the article in Hollywood Reporter:

Imax previously pointed to late 2008 and early 2009 as the likely rollout dates for its digital projection technology.

After the first six digital projection systems meet unspecified “performance specifications,” Imax said it planned to proceed with a full rollout in the last half of 2008.

The Imax digital projection system, now in development and trials, will enable theaters to receive movies on a hard drive for digital projection. That eliminates the need for costly and heavy Imax film prints that require loading via forklifts on clunky projection systems.

Unfortunately it is not only the ‘performance criteria’ that are unspecified, but the underlying technology as well. Fortunately there is more details in a news/analysis item from Screen Digest that tell us that:

No further details about the technicality of the system were revealed, but initially it was stated that each screen would be fitted with two Sony 4K digital cinema projectors, coupled with custom lenses, a high bandwidth server and Imax Image enhancement engine.

This fits in with previous speculation and rumours about IMAX’s plans. It also makes sense from a technical perspective because two IMAX projectors aligned would give enough brightness for a large format screen and also enable 3D with each projector providing left eye/right eye image. However, if I was Sony I would NOT be trumpeting this use of their technology, because it risks giving the perception that 4K is specialised large format (LF) standard for a niche market at a time when they want to compete with DLP 2K for the multiplex mass-market.

However, from a quality perspective it is true that 2K is closer to 35mm release print quality while 4K is closer to 70mm. It also highlights that at the moment you need two Sony 4K projectors to display digital stereoscopic images. But we won’t know the details for sure until 2008.

In the meantime IMAX have been quick to make sure that they too are part of the expected ‘Beowulf’ 3D bonanza by announcing that the film will go out in both digital 3D and on IMAX (traditional film) 3D. Having been the first to mass market 3D with ‘Polar Express’ IMAX have still not forgiven DLP digital cinema from snatching away the 3D crown in recent years and even went so far as to attempt to sue digital 3D companies In-Three – but failed.
In the meantime IMAX has been picking up new exhibitor deals, including a major one with Regal and even in Morocco.

To finish off on the subject of digital 3D, Wired has an article looking at the various aspects of 3D ahead of ‘Beowulf’ with some good insights for the average reader. Money quote:

But the spine-tingling moments weren’t when Ray Winstone, playing Beowulf, thrusts his sword at the audience — a 3-D cliché from the ’50s. They came when he faces a digitally enhanced Angelina Jolie playing the mother of the monstrous Grendel, in a dank, forbidding cave. Jolie makes for a stunningly seductive sorceress, so it’s all the more terrifying when her features momentarily morph into a death mask. A 3-D sword can make you jerk back in your seat, no question. But 3-D is even better when it draws you in — into the endless shadows of a cave, or into the vortex of a shrieking face.

The following day, the screenwriters were ecstatic. “It was like a third eye opened up in my forehead,” gushed Avary, who was already plotting out Beowulf when he wrote Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino more than a decade ago. “It’s so large and extraordinary and hyperreal that I can’t be anything but giddy. When I left the theater, I wanted the rest of the world to look like that.”

Hollywood is betting that audiences will feel the same way.

Not just Hollywood, but IMAX and a lot of cinemas and equipment makers too.


Paramount Signs Up To Arts Alliance’s VPF Deal

Paramount has become the third Hollywood studio to sign on to the European VPF plan proposed by Arts Alliance Media. The press release comes just in time for ShowEast. From the press release we learn that:

AAM is the only studio-backed digital cinema integrator in Europe. In June 2007, AAM signed Europe’s first long term agreements with Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Pictures International for digital cinema deployment across Europe, for close to 7000 screens over the next few years.

Andrew Cripps, PPI’s president said “PPI is delighted to have reached this agreement with Arts Alliance to roll out DCI compliant digital projection systems across Europe. This is a real step-change in the international arena which will only accelerate as 3D product becomes more commonplace and Paramount is proud to be at the forefront of this.”

There is a lot of talk in the press release about digital 3D, perhaps understandably as Paramount has ‘Beowulf‘ coming out soon (though it is distributed by Warner Bros in Europe) and is home to Dreamworks Animation SKG, which will release all of its films in digital 3D as of 2009.

The Paramount deal was to be expected as it was the one-time half of UIP, with former partner Universal (with whom it is still linked is some smaller European territories) having already singed a VPF deal with AAM. It will be interesting whether AAM wil announce any other studio partners or will come out with an exhibitor partner announcement next.