'Avatar' part of TV, Blu-Ray player push

James Cameron is taking his 3-D mission beyond the multiplexes, aiming to get a toehold in American homes with 3-D TVs and Blu-Ray players in a partnership with Panasonic while tubthumping his “Avatar” pic.

The manufacturer has been named exclusive audiovisual partner for the 3-D film and will promote it along with several of its upcoming products, including its Full HD 3-D technology, in a global advertising campaign.

A truck tour showing a clip from the film on a 103-inch 3-D HDTV will be part of the promo push.

“Any attention to 3-D is good,” said Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, chief technology officer of Panasonic. “A tie-in with a landmark movie sends a strong message not only to consumers but to the industry in general.”

Panasonic is betting big on 3-D’s future in homes. The company has established a division to help studios develop 3-D Blu-ray technology and is investing heavily in home electronics to take advantage of those features.

Cameron predicted that 3-D will become ubiquitous on all screens and made a point of making all video displays seen in “Avatar” 3-D.

While 3-D has commanded higher ticket prices at cinemas, there has not yet been a homevid release using the latest 3-D technologies, so there’s no precedent for 3-D Blu-ray disks to also be sold at a premium price.

A Fox spokesman said the studio would announce the date of the “Avatar” homevideo release after the pic’s theatrical window has closed, as is its usual policy, and all announcements pertaining to price and 3-D would be made at that time.

While this partnership is centered on “Avatar,” Tsuyuzaki noted that it is not an exclusive relationship with Fox.

“Content is the driver and we’re certainly looking forward to working with not only Fox’s ‘Avatar,’ but with Disney, Lionsgate and other companies,” he said.

Today, DVD or Blu-ray titles have to be downgraded to lesser anaglyph 3-D technology to bring 3-D into the home. “Coraline” and “Jonas Bros: The 3-D Concert Experience” are among 2009 titles that have featured such technology, which produces what some observers deem murky images with poor color.

Panasonic, though, is preparing to launch a stereoscopic 3-D plasma home theater system, which would more accurately re-create the theater experience.

While the company has not announced a launch date beyond 2010 for the system, which is dubbed “Full HD 3-D,” the marketing relationship with Fox suggests the technology will available before the home release of “Avatar.”

Cameron and Panasonic worked together during the filming of “Avatar,” with the helmer relying heavily on the company’s equipment. The director is also working with vidgame producer Ubisoft to create a stereoscopic game tie-in. That game will hit stores on Nov. 24, more than three weeks prior to the film’s Dec. 18 bow.

“Avatar” is expected to be among the first, if not the very first, stereoscopic Blu-ray releases. The Blu-ray Disc Assn. is developing universal specifications for such titles so they will work on 3-D Blu-ray players from various manufacturers.

Panasonic has privately been demonstrating its Full HD 3-D system using a 3-D Blu-ray version of Disney’s “Up.”

(David S. Cohen contributed to this report. Susanne Ault is a writer for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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