Three-dimensional films are poised to revolutionise the cinema industry, says Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of independent US studio DreamWorks Animation.
Although basic 3D technology has been around for years, Mr Katzenberg said three “magical” factors are combining to bring it into the commercial mainstream: increased power of computers which enables crisper images, digital cinemas and affordable 3D eye-wear.
“It’s the biggest technology advance since the arrival of colour 60 years ago,” Mr Katzenberg told Les Echos, the Financial Times’ French sister paper.
A further advantage, he added, was that 3D films “cannot be pirated”.
From 2009 onwards, all DreamWorks’ films will be in 3D, starting with planned releases, Monsters Vs Aliens, How To Train Your Dragon, and Shrek 4.
The driving force for the switch-over would be the willingness of audiences to pay more to watch 3D films.
“Viewers are willing to pay $5 more per ticket to watch these films,” said Mr Katzenberg. Two-dimensional films would not disappear, but of the 500 films released each year, 15 per cent of them accounted for 75 per cent of cinema tickets sold, he said. “I believe two-thirds of these blockbusters would benefit from being 3D.”
Producers will face extra costs. Mr Katzenberg estimated the additional cost of making an animated feature film in 3D at $12m-$15m, while an action film would cost an extra $5m-$6m.
Cinemas would also have to invest in technology, although for those equipped with digital projectors, the investment would be only $16,000- $17,000 more, Mr Katzenberg said.
He added that it was this new strategy to focus on 3D digital films that had prompted DreamWorks to end its collaboration with British studio Aardman Animations, which makes its films using clay models.