Cameron touts new tech’s dimensions

Helmer unveils digital cinema plans at Cinema Expo

AMSTERDAM — James Cameron unveiled Wednesday the details of a presentation he’ll make here at Cinema Expo today to push 3-D digital cinema with European exhibs.

While the “Titanic” helmer aims to persuade European exhibitors that 3-D and d-cinema are the wave of the future — and can enhance their biz models — he’s just the latest high-profile director to weigh in on the stickier issues facing distribution and exhibition these days. M. Night Shyamalan addressed U.S. exhibs at ShowEast to voice his opposition to distributor notions of shrinking the time between a film’s theatrical and DVD windows. And Cameron made a 3-D push at ShoWest.

Cameron told Daily Variety on Wednesday that he’s also in town to gauge the progress of the d-cinema rollout in Europe as he formulates a timeline for the 3-D pics he wants filling pipelines to hit theaters. Cameron said 3-D’s future lies in the release of CG-animated pics, such as “Chicken Little,” and as a means to bring blockbusters from “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to “The Lord of the Rings” and “King Kong” back to the bigscreen.

“If you have digitally produced (films), you can do 3-D titles,” he said. “And with 3-D you’ve got a marketing hook. You’ve got some sizzle and some heat. It gives you a new lease on life.”

Such plans will likely be of interest to exhibs here, as cinema operators are looking for ways to give auds experiences they cannot have at home and to encourage repeat viewings of event pics.

Cameron — who delivered to exhibs their biggest hit of all time in “Titanic” — has cut together a reel showing off what 11 films would look like in 3-D. Reel includes “Star Wars” and “King Kong” footage, “dimensionalized” as 3-D, along with clips from “Chicken Little” and “Robots.”

If Cameron gets his way, his pics “Titanic,” “Aliens” and “The Terminator” will come to life as 3-D projects, and he’s already begun tests on “Titanic” as a 3-D feature.

He said the technology also makes piracy obsolete. “You can’t have piracy,” he said. “Even if you pirated the film, you still wouldn’t have a place to show it.”

Europe is behind North America in adopting plans for a wide digital rollout. Studios are pushing the agenda here — Cameron was here with a contingent from Fox — but exhibs want a system via which studios will foot the bill for the systems through fees that would be paid until exhibs recoup their investments.

Cameron’s November pic “Avatar” is one of a series of upcoming films, including Disney’s “Meet the Robinsons,” that will be released in 3-D versions.

Cameron said the hurdles to implement 3-D won’t be technical once d-cinema has its day.

But there’s still that pesky problem of selling a style of film exhibition seen by many as a campy lark that was aimed at drawing fans to pulp films years ago and fell out of vogue.

“People think of it as those red-and-blue glasses,” he said. (Now fans wear a version that doesn’t skew colors.) “I can get (that idea) converted when people walk into a theater. It’s not something you need to qualify. It’s a simple problem.”

Also at Cinema Expo on Wednesday, Warner Bros. and Disney took turns showing off product reels and high-profile tentpole releases for exhibs.

Warners, which followed its reel with a morning screening of “Superman Returns,” unveiled footage and trailers for Shyamalan’s “Lady in the Water” as well as “The Lake House,” “The Ant Bully,” “The Reaping,” “The Prestige,” “Blood Diamond,” “The Assassination of Jesse James,” “300,” “Zodiac” and “No Reservations.”

Studio also brought to Amsterdam 17 minutes of footage from its CG-animated “Happy Feet,” its musical comedy about penguins. After “March of the Penguins,” the studio apparently sees gold in the black-and-white birds.

Disney, meanwhile, unveiled “Cars” as well its “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel.

It screened “Cars” with headsets that could be ordered up by exhibs in English, German, Italian and Spanish. And the unspooling of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” marked the pic’s first non-U.S. screening.

Prior to the evening “Pirates” show, the studio showed off a product reel with pics including “Meet the Robinsons,” “The Guardian,” “Goal 2,” “Deja Vu,” “Ratatouille” and the latest “Santa Clause” installment, starring Martin Short and Tim Allen.

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