Deal doubles chain's screen count to 3,000

Regal Entertainment Group will add 1,500 RealD 3D screens to its cinema circuit.

Deal doubles Regal’s 3D screen count to 3,000, all RealD. Regal is the largest U.S. exhibitor, with 6,698 screens total.

About 35 pics are skedded for 3D release in the U.S. in 2011, a 50% increase from 2010. Six of the top 10 grossers in 2010 were released in 3D, including leaders “Toy Story 3″ and “Alice in Wonderland.”

The 3D lineup for May-August 2011 includes “Thor,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Green Lantern,” “Cars 2,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” “Captain America” and “Smurfs.”

Regal’s move comes on the heels of a heated Internet debate over 3D, sparked when Roger Ebert (a vocal 3D-hater) published a letter from editor Walter Murch declaring 3D to be inalterably at odds with human evolution and anatomy. Ebert’s headline: “Why 3D doesn’t work and never will.”

Several blogs and news sites have since rebutted Murch and Ebert. Regal’s 3D expansion puts them on the side of those who think it’s working fine.

RealD VP Rick Heineman told Variety: “Between studios, exhibitors and moviegoers, the market is voting in favor of today’s digital 3D.”

Regal’s VP of marketing and advertising, Dick Westerling, said “We continue to hear very positive feedback from our patrons regarding 3D films and their experience viewing 3D films.”

He said the chain has received “a minimal amount” of negative feedback about 3D — “A very insignificant number when you consider the amount of traffic going to 3D movies.”

RealD’s 3D projection system dominates cinemas in North America. It had about 9,300 screens deployed worldwide as of late September 2010.

Company recently received an award from the Producers Guild for its pioneering efforts in 3D.

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