Cinema Expo pitches 3-D to theaters

Cameron throws weight behind new technology

Cinema Expo had one message for Europe’s theater owners last week: Get behind 3-D.

Other industry concerns, such as piracy and preserving release windows, took a backseat at the Amsterdam confab to a concerted push from Hollywood’s 3-D faithful.

There was an extended preview of “Avatar” presented by James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver, the global 3-D premiere of Fox’s “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” and a Disney screening of “Up” in 3-D plus a preview of the studio’s stereoscopic slate, including sequences from Robert Zemeckis‘ “A Christmas Carol” and the retrofitted “Beauty and the Beast.”

“Meet us on Dec. 18 with as many screens as you can,” Cameron beckoned. “You don’t want to be watching everyone driving down the street to the other theater because it has 3-D.”

But before Europe can meet Cameron’s wishes, 3-D purveyors have some key issues to sort out.

One is the choice between 4K projection and 2K. “Suddenly, in the U.S., we all see that huge deals are being made on 4K, plus the Sony 4K becomes ready to show 3-D, which was previously not the case,” says Franck Lebouchard, head of Gallic chain Europalaces.

It doesn’t help that Hollywood is putting out a mixed message on the benefits of 4K: Sony has committed to 4K film production, backing its equipment interests, but others have not. Disney and Paramount execs at the Expo were lukewarm about whether customers could see the difference.

And then there’s that nagging question of 3-D eyewear. There was heated debate over who pays for the glasses.

“As an exhibitor, I want those glasses to have very little cost, and I want that cost paid by the studios,” says Lebouchard.

“We want them less expensive, and I’d go so far as to say we want them reusable,” said Jason Brenek, Disney’s senior VP for worldwide digital cinema and programming. “We need to find either models where consumers bring their own glasses or some sort of a national model where glasses are sponsored.”