Theatrical, Sports, Gaming, Broadcast, Alternative Programming, Live Events, Mobile and International Enthusiasm Driving Interest
Importance of High Quality For Both Filmmakers and Exhibitors Stressed at Event Presented in Association with Variety
3D entertainment is a clear-cut economic success story generating enormous international excitement, agreed a cross-section of speakers at the just-wrapped fourth annual 3D Entertainment Summit(R) presented by Unicomm, LLC and The Bob Dowling Group in association with Variety.
Co-located this year with the 3D Gaming Summit: 3D Gaming & Beyond(R) and the LA Mobile Entertainment Summit(R) presented by Ortsbo.com, The 3D Entertainment Summit(R), was held Tuesday-Thursday, September 20-22 at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, CA. ESPN 3D was the Title Sponsor of this year’s event, with RealD, LG Cinema 3D and Samsung participating as Premier Sponsors.
Keynote and featured speakers at the three conferences included Co-Chairmen James Cameron and Vince Pace, CAMERON | PACE Group; Tom Rothman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Fox Filmed Entertainment; Bryan Burns, Vice President Strategic Business Planning and Development, ESPN; Michael V. Lewis, Chairman/CEO & Co-Founder, RealD; Mick Hocking, VP, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios; Roy Taylor, EVP/GM, MasterImage 3D and, at Thursday’s 3D Gaming Summit, Vince Zampella (“Call of Duty”), General Manager, Respawn Entertainment and David Maisel, former Chairman, Marvel Studios and currently Strategic Advisor to Rovio Mobile (creator of “Angry Birds”).
The conference presented DreamWorks Animation’s chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, a previous keynote speaker, with its first “3D Visionary Award,” which he accepted via video address before treating attendees to an 18 minute sneak peek at DWA’s upcoming “Puss in Boots 3D” starring Antonio Banderas.
“Avatar” director James Cameron, while stressing the critical importance of quality in all aspects of 3D filmmaking in his keynote interview on Wednesday with moderator David Cohen of Variety, called the 3D business a clear success, pointing out that 3D box office was up 40% in four years.
“Theaters, frankly, aren’t keeping up,” said Cameron, adding that the exhibitors are “cannibalizing business from each other,” forcing some of the 3D ticket sales to go to 2D screens. “We need to double down on the number of screens. I think it’s a question of it being a growth pain and not a contraction,” he explained.
The quality issue was also emphasized by Fox’s Rothman in his keynote interview with conference co-chairman Bob Dowling. After pointing out that the decision to make a movie in 3D can’t be a slapdash one given the skill and time involved, Rothman also defended 3D conversion which, he said, “when done with artistry, with time and with resources, can be fabulous.”
Vince Pace, Co-Chairman of CAMERON | PACE Group, also defended 3D conversion, arguing that the technique had gotten a bad rap in part from a few poorly received films. Twentieth Century Fox and CPG are currently working on a much-anticipated 3D conversion of James Cameron’s “Titanic,” the studio’s second-highest grossing film of all time.
“Perception and reality have diverged mostly as the result of the media trying to spin a negative story,” Pace added, citing the overwhelming weekend box office success of 17-year-old 3D converted “The Lion King” which had over $30 million in ticket sales.
The parallel to 3D’s future path, Cameron added, is TV broadcasting. “At first it was just the big movies, then color TV came along and in one year, every movie was in color because they had to be, because they had no library value if they didn’t,” Cameron said. “It’s going to be the same thing (with 3D).”
ESPN’s Bryan Burns told the conference that his team’s efforts are on track with their plans. “With ESPN 3D, we’re right where we thought we would be,” he said. “As HDTV is today – ubiquitous – 3D will be the same.”
John Revie, Samsung’s Sr. VP, Home Entertainment Product Marketing, added support to Cameron’s argument for TV as a critical driver in his address on Tuesday, emphasizing that the company was bullish on 3D TV sales, projecting over 3 million units would be sold by the end of 2011. Cinema IHS Screen Digest Senior Analysts Charlotte Jones and Helen Davis also stressed the importance of television to 3D’s continued growth, predicting that home video (along with international box office) would drive 3D revenue in 2012.
Addressing the perception that 3D was somehow stagnant, Cinedigm Digital Cinema’s Chairman and CEO Chris McGurk said that first 3D was seen as the “white knight” pulling the industry out of an economic slump. “Then it was perceived as a villain when on the heels of the huge success of ‘Avatar’ some producers got the idea that simply converting something from 2D to 3D would make it commercially successful.”
McGurk said neither perception was correct, pointing out that the 3D industry’s core remains “high quality script, story and characters.” McGurk also urged exhibitors to explore alternative content – concerts, action sports series, children’s and family programming, independent film series – on “off-peak” times from Monday through Thursday when theatres are “remarkably” 80% underutilized.
With hundreds of leading executives representing every major Hollywood studio, scores of writer/directors, industry analysts, financial analysts, dozens of major press and consumer electronics and technology executives, the annual 3D Entertainment Summit(R) has quickly become the most important 3D business event in the world. The conference was moderated by Bob Dowling, former editor-in-chief and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter for nearly two decades, and featured opening remarks from Unicomm CEO John Golicz.
The need for quality, compelling content and greater consumer education were seen by many speakers and attendees as lynchpins to successfully growing the 3D business. What content will drive consumers to 3D adoption was a key focus of the conference with film, sports, gaming and broadcast leading the list. Industry standardization, particularly for exhibitors was cited as a current challenge; most attendees agreed that the active/passive glasses issue, while vexing, was likely a short term challenge that would be addressed by technological advancements.
In addition to keynote addresses and panels, the Summit, which was covered live throughout by top business broadcast media, featured a state-of-the-art 3D Entertainment Technology Showcase(TM) where leading edge entertainment companies showcased everything from 3D display cell phones, to the latest 3D TV’s and video games, and the spacious, multi-media “ESPN 3D Lounge.”
During the course of the Summit, attendees were treated to screenings of spectacular 3D content including presentation reels from the CAMERON | PACE Group and ESPN, an innovative all 3D slide presentation on PlayStation(r) 3’s first year from Sony’s Mick Hocking; as well as never before seen (in the U.S.) footage including Universe in a Coffee Cup, and Stereo Time Lapse from acclaimed Japanese director Sekitani Takashi and Nothing To My Name, China’s first 3D concert film/documentary on legendary godfather of Chinese rock, Cui Jian, produced by session panelist Bai Qiang.
“3D is a subject our readers have shown tremendous interest in,” said Linda Buckley-Bruno, Variety’s Director of Publishing, “so we’re delighted that this year’s 3D Entertainment Summit(R) presented the key thought leaders in this space.”
“Our fourth annual event was our most successful and thought-provoking,” offered conference co-producer Bob Dowling. “We are now recognized as the definitive forum for an honest, inclusive discussion of all things 3D, which fulfills the goal we set for ourselves when we launched this conference.”