Studios back new theatrical format

Technicolor’s 3D-on-film solution is finding some traction in the marketplace. The lab and post-production giant has announced support for Technicolor 3D from DreamWorks Animation, Lionsgate, Paramount, Overture, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., and the Weinstein Co., all of which aim to release pics in the format.

The system aims to address the shortage of digital 3D screens by using conventional celluloid film prints capable of 3D imaging.

No exhibitors have yet announced they will install the system, but Ahmad Ouri, Technicolor’s president of strategy, technology and marketing, said he expects to announce the first deployment deals for Technicolor 3D at ShowEast next week.

“There has been a little bit of chicken and egg,” he said, “so we are pursuing a strategy of getting content owners and studios on board first.”

Ouri said of these seven companies, “If we have screens available, then they will release their content in this format.” Between them, they have 17 stereoscopic 3D (S3D) releases skedded for 2010.

Conspicuously absent from the announcement are Fox, which has James Cameron’s S3D epic “Avatar” due Dec. 18, and Disney, which has been the biggest booster of S3D among the studios.

Disney seemed to rule out support for the format.

“We’re fully committed to the digital 3D solution,” said a Disney rep. “We think it provides the highest quality to the moviegoing experience. We’ve been committed to this format dating back to our first Disney Digital 3D release with ‘Chicken Little.’ “

Fox declined to comment on the announcement.

The dubious history of S3D on film may account for Disney’s refusal to support the format and Fox’s reticence.

The “Technicolor 3D” system updates the “over-under” method for showing S3D on film. To date, the current S3D wave has used digital projection only, with the exception of traditional Imax screens that showed S3D from 70mm prints.

Technicolor execs discussing the system last month at 3D Entertainment Summit faced sharp questions about film’s vulnerability to problems with dim images, scratches, fading and operator error.

Cameron is a notorious perfectionist and a vocal advocate of digital cinema. Meanwhile Disney has been very protective of the nascent S3D space, concerned about protecting the audience from headaches and the other issues that plagued moviegoers watching S3D on film in the 1950s, ’70s and ’80s.

Technicolor 3D does offer the advantages of being cheap and fast to install, allowing S3D to be deployed more quickly than the current d-cinema rollout permits. Even Technicolor, though, has called it an interim solution to bridge the gap until digital is fully in place.

Ouri said the system has been shown to all the majors, as well as numerous other companies, and discussions continue even with companies not included in this announcement.

Meanwhile, Universal’s confirmed it is aiming to release “Despicable Me” in Technicolor 3D next year. Pic is the first from Illumination Entertainment, the new family entertainment unit run by former Fox exec Chris Meledandri and funded by U.

DreamWorks Animation has two S3D features coming in 2010: “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Shrek Forever After.”

DWA topper Jeffrey Katzenberg, an outspoken advocate of S3D, said, “The solution they (Technicolor staffers) are working on today could potentially be very helpful to the deployment of the new 3D platform in theaters across the globe,”

Also on board to support the system are film stock manufacturers Kodak and Fuji, as well as Technicolor’s rival Deluxe.

Deluxe has arranged with Technicolor to provide film printing and post services to deliver release prints in the format.

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