According to an Associated Press report, four major Hollywood studios have reached agreements with Access Integrated Technologies to help finance the conversion of up to 10,000 more movie theater screens to digital technology capable of projecting 3D images. The deal is worth up to $700 million. Hollywood has been enticed by digital technology for years, as it improves image fidelity and eliminates the production and handling costs of fragile film prints. And it also makes 3D possible.
The main appeal of 3D is that theaters can get more dollars per seat for the films. The new Hannah Montana 3D concert film pulled in $31.3 million in its first weekend, in spite of the fact that it was only shown on 683 screens. A typical national release hits 3,000 screens or more on its first weekend. So far, only about 4,000 of the 38,000 screens in the US and Canada have been converted for digital projection.
So what’s the point? How does this relate to HDTV? The simple fact is that 3D is coming to HDTV. Support is already built into many rear projection models, SpectronIQ is making a play for an all-3D line of LCD HDTVs, and Samsung made a splash at CES 2008 with a prototype 3D plasma HDTV. The manufacturers want to be able to deliver an experience in the home that rivals what you can get at the neighborhood cinema (minus the overpriced popcorn and ringing cell phones). Now, I expect that the initial demand for 3D HDTV technology will be the avid video game fan. But given the success of 3D movies such as Chicken Little (which made more than twice as much per cinema screen in 3D than it did in 2D), it’s only a matter of time that 3D support will give HDTV makers a decided advantage over competitors.
In other words, get ready to welcome a 3D Hannah Montana into your living room.