There is only one place you won’t be able to watch ‘Beowulf‘ in 3D this weekend and that is at a really big conventional cinema screens. That is because stereoscopic cinema technology is ‘light eater’, which means that if you want to watch it on something larger than a 45-foot screen you have to watch the Imax version, or else the film will be as dark as Grendel’s mother’s lair at midnight without a torch. This presents an obvious problem to exhibitor who want to showcase ‘Beowulf’ and other future digital 3D films on their flagship screen.
Real D CEO Michael Lewis said the challenge of light has until now resulted in missed opportunities, noting that the problem was keeping 3-D from being a viable option in about 15%-20% of domestic screens — those being the largest.
Added Greer, “Now we get demands from our exhibitors saying that they want to be in the biggest house, and we have to say no because we want to make sure there is enough light on the screen.”
Today, projection of 3-D imagery on larger screens typically is accomplished with two d-cinema projectors stacked one on top of the other and used simultaneously. But acquiring and maintaining two d-cinema projectors for a single auditorium is not practical for exhibitors.
Real D expects to have the modified 3-D systems for larger theaters and incorporating this new technology available in 2008.
According to RealD this new technology should allow it to light up screens as large as 70 feet. However, they do not go into how many footlamberts they would be able to throw on such a screen, which is likely to be far short of the specified 14 fLs. It would be an interesting shoot-out between the competing digital 3D technologies (RealD, Dolby 3D and active glasses from the likes of NuVision) to see which one eats the most light.
Someone who has opted for Dolby over RealD is Belgian and pan-European exhibitor Kinepolis, who has just revealed its digital 3D plans for ‘Beowulf’ and early 2008 ‘Fly Me To The Moon‘. From the press release:
So far, 17 Kinepolis complexes have equipped one auditorium each with a Dolby® 3D Digital Cinema system: all the Kinepolis complexes in Belgium (10) and in France (6) and the Spanish megaplex Kinepolis Madrid. Beowulf 3D is scheduled to be released this month. The Belgium world premiere of Fly me to the Moon in 3D is scheduled for January 2008.
So Dolby is catching up with RealD for European digital 3D footprint.
Someone who is heading their bets with regards to digital 3D at the moment is US exhibitor Cinemark, one of the three DCIP partners, who revealed the following about their digital cinema and digital 3D in their Q3 2007 conference call transcript (provided courtesy of Seeking Alpha):
We are excited about the prospects that digital cinema offers and we are actively testing and preparing so that our deployment and implementation of digital cinema is optimized and as smooth as possible from a technological and operational perspective once the DCIP agreements are finalized.
We are also optimistic about the long-term prospects of 3D, a key opportunity of digital.
We are currently using our fully digital theater in Chicago, as well as other local theaters to test multiple 3D technologies that are available. As previously discussed, we have a very deliberate digital rollout strategy, as we believe we will get the most benefit by making sure the negotiations are complete and the technology is established prior to our implementation.
Since digital is a prerequisite to 3D, our 3D rollout will follow our digital rollout strategy. We currently have 39 3D screens. We intend to begin installations in 2008 with our entire circuit converted in approximately three to four years.