It was a battle of the titans at the box office that was destined not to be. Paramount and DreamsWorks Animation (DWA) have moved the release date of ‘Monsters vs. Aliens‘ significantly forward to avoid a clash with James Cameron’s ‘Avatar‘. Both films were set to be showcase examples of the new digital 3D technology in cinemas already used to screen ‘Meet the Robinsons‘, ‘Monster House‘ and the upcoming ‘Beowulf‘ stereoscopically. Having initially both set release dates for 22 May 2009, ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ at first shifted slightly to 15 May but have now moved further forward to 27 March 2009, making it an Easter release. ‘Avatar’ has meanwhile not budged, showing the strength of Cameron and Fox. Quoted in the Hollywood Reporter, Katzenberg was pragmatic about the move:
Had “Monsters” stuck to its proposed May release, “I saw more and more problems splitting the market for 3-D right at the time when it will be becoming the most exciting thing in moviegoing,” Katzenberg told The Reporter. “Instead of splitting the market, I want to see it get launched in the best possible way.”
Katzenberg predicted that there would be 5,000-8,000 3-D screens available domestically by the time “Monsters” rolls out in 2009. While a 2-D version of the film also will play in smaller markets, the majority of its U.S. dates will use the new 3-D technologies.
With its new release date, “Monsters” will have an eight-week window in the 3-D corridor before “Avatar” takes over for the Memorial Day holiday.
Given that digital 3D movies have staying power, this should just about give MvA enough time to complete its run. Variety also has an article about it, but it ads little new, other than Katzenberg quipping that “In 2009, summer begins on March 29,” though what is more likely is that on that day the power of digital 3D in cinemas will be tested as it outnumbers the releases on 35mm film or even regular 2D digital.