Avatar sparks 3-D makeover for action classics

image Hollywood is preparing to re-release some past hits, including Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in 3-D following the record-breaking success of Avatar.

Studio executives are drawing up schedules of popular films that will be “retro-fitted” with 3-D technology after the science fiction blockbuster, directed by James Cameron, last week became the second highest grossing movie of all time.

A 3-D version of Avatar has driven ticket sales to more than $1.14 billion (£700m) in just three weeks; only Titanic, Cameron’s 1997 epic, has made more money at the box office.

Rival studios had been waiting to see if Avatar took the 3-D experience — albeit using special glasses — beyond the popularity of animated tales such Monsters vs Aliens.

Experts now predict that 3-D will become the new multiplex standard within five years. This will be as dramatic a shift as when the “talkies” killed off silent movies in the early 20th century.

Retro-fitting a screen classic with 3-D imagery could take as little as four months, using software to manipulate a digital copy of the film.

Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings, said last spring that he wanted to reissue the trilogy in 3-D if Avatar persuaded enough cinemas to put in new 3-D projectors. Last week technicians at Weta, the production company that had worked on the trilogy, said they had experimented with 3-D battle scenes and proclaimed them to be “gob-smacking”.

image The Lord of the Rings is expected to be re-released after Jackson has finished producing the two-part version of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit over the next two years. This would mean that a 3-D version of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of the trilogy, could be in cinemas by Christmas 2012.

It may be beaten to the screen by a revamped version of Star Wars. George Lucas, the director, spent $13m filming the original in 1976, added special effects in 1997 and 2004, and will now spend another $10m to change it into a 3-D spectacular.

“George cannot leave it alone,” said an associate. “He is salivating at the opportunity to play with it again. This time the Death Star is really going to explode all over the audience and leave them gasping.”

Read more at the Times Online (UK).

Avatar: yes, it changed everything after all

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A review from Gizmodo

Put simply, Avatar is the most visually fantastic film I’ve ever seen. It will be hailed as the groundbreaking 3D release of its time while setting a new standard by which all blockbusters are measured. Yes, it’s that good.

I’m not going to talk about plot (or that I thought to myself, Dances with Wolves in space more than once). I’m not going to talk about dialog or pacing (or that the limited narration was totally unnecessary). There are other reviews, more reviewy type reviews, that have all that covered. I’m not going to spoil anything, either. Heck, I’m not even going to talk about Avatar…not just yet.

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5 reasons 3-D video will come to our living rooms

image Let’s face it, there are some skeptics out there when it comes to 3-D.  Some point to competing standards, others to the kitsch factor, and almost all point to the glasses. But not everyone’s a hater. In fact, Sony and Panasonic see the technology as a savior for their living room business. So will 3-D make it in the home?  Chances are it will, and here are five reasons why:

1. 3-D will become a standard feature. TV makers will put a premium price on anything 3-D in the next few years (much as they did with HD), as Alfred Poor points out in his new 3DTV report at GigaOM Pro (subscription required); but over time, the technology will become just another standard feature. Chances are in five years we’ll see $799 50-inch 3-D TVs from Vizio at Costco.

2. Invasion of the 3-D movie theaters. 3-D movies are bringing in higher per-screen revenues than their 2-D counterparts, and by the end of this year there should be 7,000 3-D screens worldwide. Hollywood has caught 3-D fever, and it’s logical to think the big focus on 3-D in the theater will migrate over time to the living room.

3. Those crazy gamers. Gamers have been enjoying crude 3-D effects since Wolfenstein 3-D, and more and more are being pulled into a new dimension with the latest 3-D technology.  Sony has stated that existing game catalogs will be 3-D upgradeable through software, which could build the library of content quickly and justify the cost of accessories such as glasses.

4. Cheap glasses. While active shutter glasses would set you back at least 50 bones today, prices will fall through the floor once they’re manufactured at scale.  Think four-packs at Wal-Mart for $25 in about five years.

5. Kids. 3-D’s secret weapon, really. I have to wonder how many 3-D skeptics are child-less. Just as tens of millions of parents came down with Wii tennis elbow in recent years, so will they be donning 3-D glasses in the future.

3-D in the home will continue to be a source of both skepticism and excitement in the coming years. But make no mistake, as both the DVD and HDTV gravy trains continue to slow to a crawl, TV makers and Hollywood are seeing an extra dimension.

See the original article at GigaOm.

Reminder: Theaters showing the 3D versions of Toy Story 1 and 2

imageJust a reminder to all you Pixar fans – starting October 2, 2009 Toy Story and Toy Story 2 will be shown in certain theaters as a double-feature. These are the new versions re-rendered in 3D. Yup, put on the glasses and enjoy the movies once again.

It’s only in theaters for two weeks so be sure to get your tickets before it’s too late! Now I wish my Toy Story box set was in 3D!

3-D glasses a sticking point for movie industry

image More than a dozen 3-D films will hit multiplexes this year, and theaters are installing thousands of digital 3-D systems amid fervid public approval of the fledgling technology.

If the industry could only figure out how to pay for the 3-D glasses.

Complicated virtual-print-fee (VPF) agreements are in place to fund the rollout of digital hardware, enabling theaters to add the 3-D systems. But until reusable 3-D glasses come into greater use or the $1-per-pair cost for disposables is cut substantially, squabbling will continue over millions of dollars in costs tied to the extra-dimensional eyewear.

With an installed base of fewer than 1,400 domestic 3-D screens, distribution has been limited, keeping the cost of outfitting customers in the low- to mid-single-digits. But once 3-D movies start playing in 2,000 or more theaters at a time, that expense is expected to swell quickly to $10 million or more per release.

Such outlays come on top of about $15 million per picture in extra production costs tied to 3-D, as well as multimillion-dollar VPF payments. 20th Century Fox executives quietly spread the word a couple months ago that they intended to rein in their payments on glasses, but details of a new arrangement have yet to emerge. (more…)