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3-D wins day at Comic-Con

Studios take the campaign to the masses

SAN DIEGO — Hollywood has essentially rolled out the red carpet for exhibitors around the world to get them to embrace 3-D. At Comic-Con on Thursday studios took the campaign to the masses.

To help sell the format, Comic-Con organizers outfitted Hall H with four silver screens to show the 3-D footage and handed out thousands of pairs of Dolby 3-D Digital Cinema glasses to attendees as they entered the room.

The format’s biggest cheerleaders, Disney, Sony and Fox rolled out exclusive 3-D footage from the upcoming tentpoles “A Christmas Carol” from Robert Zemeckis, Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” “Tron Legacy,” “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

The purpose was not only to energize the crowd of more than 6,000 people that filled the massive Hall H in the San Diego Convention Center but also to entice them to pony up the extra coin to see the pics in 3-D once they’re released in theaters.

Having on hand talent like Burton, who made his first appearance at the show as a presenter, and surprise guest Johnny Depp certainly helped amp up the excitement. The pair’s “Alice” opens March 5.

But the focus was on the technology. As Zemeckis put it after a lengthy montage of “A Christmas Carol,” in which Jim Carrey plays eight characters, “it’s the future,” calling 3-D technology a “tool that’s been perfected.

“It’s happening,” Zemeckis said. “We’re there.”

Getting more studios interested in 3-D should encourage more exhibitors to build the additional silver screens needed to show pics in the format.

There are approximately 1,700 3-D locations as of now (some of those locations could have multiple 3-D screens).

Disney’s 3-D “G-Force” is going out in 1,603 locations today.

In case exhibitors don’t build the screens, Fox topper Tom Rothman wanted to remain cautious and let attendees know “the film is great in 2-D and will be shown in the format as well.”

Participation was a major push for Dolby, considering it controls a tiny sliver — an estimated 10% — of the 3-D market compared with Real D, which Disney embraces.

Imax also made the trek to San Diego to show off its own technology in presentations downtown, away from the convention center.

The branding of the 3-D format was unavoidable, with Disney plastering the screens with the fact the footage was a “3-D Showcase” and the footage was being shown in Disney Digital 3-D and Imax 3-D.

Disney’s early morning panel benefited from throngs of “Twilight” fans, many of whom camped out overnight to get a first-look at footage Summit screened Thursday afternoon.

The “Twihards” filled the main hall just to secure a seat for the panel that would take place hours later.

But Fox didn’t need any extra help. After the “Twilight” contingent emptied Hall H, another crowd quickly filled the room again to see the mesmerizing 23 minutes of footage Cameron brought from “Avatar,” which bows Dec. 18.

Crowds were wowed by the photo-realistic computer-generated visuals featured in the sci-fi epic that stars a cast of blue-skinned cat-like aliens who live in a world influenced by oceanic settings and creatures.

Cameron has spent the past four years producing the pic and spent 14 years developing the technology.

To push the pic, Cameron and Fox are taking over 3-D theaters globally on Aug. 21 for free screenings of 15 minutes of “Avatar” footage on what he’s calling “Avatar Day.” They’ll also be previewing the videogame and toy line.

“This is the movie you’ve been waiting for,” said Sigourney Weaver during a panel that followed.

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