3-D Takes a Giant Leap Into the Future

Bill Pagnella, 63, of Fort Washington, Md., says he and son Joey, 8, would go to the movies more if there were more 3-D offerings. They plan to see "Up," whose trailer is attached to "Monsters." "It's exciting that it's coming back into vogue. I like the quality of the 3-D and the sound."

Even hard-to-impress teens gave "Monsters" a thumbs-up. "I see a lot of 3-D movies because my friend works in a theater," say Karl Dobias, 18, of Chantilly, Va. "This one is a lot better. Usually when you go to a 3-D movie, you have to sit in the back or the effects don't work well. We sat right in the front row, and it looked fine."

"Monsters" star Seth Rogen, who lends his boomy voice to blue-hued monster B.O.B., initially was taken aback when told that the movie would be in 3-D. "I'll be honest," says the actor, 26, "I'm one of those people who hear 'new' and '3-D' and think it doesn't make sense. Hasn't it been around since the '60s?"

But after boning up on the latest technological advances, he became a believer, especially once he actually saw Monsters. "I thought it was awesome."

Such reactions don't exactly surprise Jeffrey Katzenberg, the DreamWorks 'toon titan who spent a good part of last year traveling the world to preach about the wonders of digital 3-D. He likens its potential cinematic impact to the advent of sound or arrival of color in film.

"There hasn't been any real innovation in the moviegoing experience in many decades," says the Hollywood honcho whose company's output will be all 3-D from now on. "People want to be excited by something special and unique that happens in movies, something that can't happen anywhere else."

All the better to compete with pimped-out home media rooms. Other benefits include cleaner prints and a deterrent to piracy.

However, the financial crunch has put a major crimp in the 3-D crusade. Theater conversions to install special projectors and other upgrades have slowed. With fewer outlets than expected, "Coraline" and "Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience" had to scramble for space when they came out within a few weeks of each other.

Of North America's nearly 40,000 screens, about 2,000 will be 3-D capable in time for "Monsters"— thousands less than Katzenberg predicted last year.

That means fewer chances to charge an extra $3 or more a ticket to see the atomic-age-inspired romp in all its extra-dimensional cheesiness — a premium that audiences have been glad to pay in the past for such movies as "The Polar Express" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth." "Monsters" also will be available in standard 2-D on multiple screens at about 1,400 locations.

Katzenberg thinks that is enough to cover the $15 million or so the process adds to a film's budget as well as make a profit, especially given the recent surge in theater attendance. But he seems less concerned about whether Monsters, budgeted at an estimated $165 million, conquers the box office than he is about 3-D taking over the planet.

"Almost every movie would benefit from being 3-D, the way nearly every movie benefits from being in color," he says, though the format has been best served by animation so far. "When James Cameron comes forward with Avatar, it will mark a whole new era of live-action films. When other filmmakers see what he has done, they will want to use it."

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