Top circuits pick up pace of converting screens

Although Japan is a world leader in the burgeoning 3D TV and game-console biz, the exhibition sector was at first slow to make the 3D move. Expense was one factor; lack of product worth the 3D premium to local auds was another — the Japanese already pay the world’s highest ticket prices, at $19.35 for a standard adult admission. A 3D ticket costs nearly $2 more.

All that has changed with the smash success of “Avatar,” which has earned more than $160 million in Japan to date. “It’s shown how profitable (3D films) can be,” says Junichi Tamaki, spokesman for Toho, owner of Japan’s largest theater chain. “The speed of change is picking up.”

As of June 2009, the Toho Cinemas outfitted 61 of its 500 screens with 3D. By 2012, it plans to boost that number to 150.

Also rapidly expanding its 3D presence is Warner Mycal. Some 59 of its screens in 44 sites, out of a total of 496, are 3D-ready. By this summer the company intends to boost that number to 100.

In total, 30% of all screens — which numbered 3,396 as of the end of 2009 — are expected to be 3D within two years.

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