Warner pushes back release date of 'Clash'

Warner Bros. announced Tuesday that it will convert “Clash of the Titans” and the first part of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” to stereoscopic 3D (S3D), kicking off a flurry of release-date shifts and solving a puzzle that had stumped Hollywood’s tech community.

Reports that Warners was ready to announce the conversion first surfaced more than a week ago in the Marketsaw Blog, which follows S3D. The studio is also converting “Cats and Dogs 2″ and will release the animated “Guardians of Ga’hoole” in S3D as well.

Buried in Warner’s announcement, however, was the answer to a question that’s left the tech community baffled: Who could get the conversion of “Titans” done in the scant weeks left before the pic’s release date, which was moved back only one week to April 2?

The answer: Prime Focus Group, the Indian-owned visual effects and post-production company with offices in Hollywood and around the globe.

Prime Focus announced its View-D conversion process in September and promised it would be “exponentially faster” than anything else in the marketplace. Those claims will now be put to the test.

Chris Bond, who heads Prime Focus’ View-D team, told Daily Variety, “We view this as a 10-week project.” Work is already under way. Bond flew to London to meet with the producers and directors of “Clash.”

“We started fully a week ago in full swing,” he says, though the decision to go ahead wasn’t finalized until after a Monday screening of the film.

Even with the shifted date and a head start, however, Prime Focus will be doing a conversion faster than most in the field would be comfortable with.

“Ten weeks is really tight,” said Tim Sassoon of Santa Monica-based Sassoon Film Design, an established S3D conversion shop. “You’re not really going to be producing final shots right away. So in your last five weeks you have 40 shots a day to be finalled (assuming 1,500 shots for the whole movie). That’s a tall order for anyone, especially for a company that’s never done this before.”

Prime Focus unveiled its View-D conversion process in December and has never done an end-to-end conversion of any feature. That’s true of most companies, though, in this nascent field.

One experienced S3D filmmaker called Prime Focus’ first public showing of View-D “so-so” but added, “I’m sure if Warner Bros. is going with them it will be excellent quality.”

Bond credits the deal to the studio’s comfort level with Prime Focus leaders Mike Fink and Terry Clotiaux, both vfx vets.

Warners execs confirmed that Prime Focus was more or less hand-picked for the job. “In-Three was very busy with ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and all the other things they’re doing, so we went with a vendor we knew had an open availability in their schedule,” one of the execs said, adding that Prime Focus was set up to work fast and would be able to handle all of the work from its Hollywood facility.

Warner and partner Legendary Pictures did not disclose how much they’re spending to get the pic into S3D. Sassoon said converting a feature costs about $5 million, but that figure varies according to the length of the title, the complexity of the images and whether the title is to go to homevideo or theaters.

“The bigger the screen, the tighter the work has to be,” he said.

There’s also talk of converting library titles, especially with 3D TV on the horizon and the real possibility of selling S3D Blu-ray disks.

However, Sassoon warned that with homevideo-quality conversions at $2.5 million, there may not be a rush to convert library titles beyond such high-value pics as the “Star Wars” trilogies and James Cameron’s “Terminator 2.”

Announcement of the one-week delay for the “Titans” prompted several other date shifts Tuesday. MGM opted to move “Hot Tub Time Machine” into the March 26 slot from March 19; Fox shifted “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” two weeks forward to March 19; and CBS Films decided to shift Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy “The Back Up Place” back a week to April 23.

Besides “Hot Tub Time Machine,” the other wide-release pics in the March 26 slot are DreamWorks and Paramount’s “How to Train Your Dragon” and Consolidated Picture Group’s comedy-drama “I Love You, Phillip Morris.”

On April 2, “Clash of the Titans” will face a pair of wide releases: Lionsgate’s launch of “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?” and Universal’s sci-fier “Repo Men.”

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