Monday, April 14, 2008

3D Screen Power Struggle: Disney/Pixar vs. Dreamworks Animation vs. Lucasfilm

Commentary: I am surprised more people haven't really gotten it yet because I have yet to read a post about this opinion anywhere. But have you stopped to consider how aggressive that Disney/Pixar (D/P) movie slate announcement was? And this coming from Disney who is usually not all that forthcoming with their cinematic intentions. What does all this mean? Why the overflowing fountain of film from Disney all of a sudden?

3D screens. There is a limited supply of them and the best holiday dates are at a premium. We first saw this with Fox's 3D epic "Avatar" being pegged for a Memorial Day 2009 release. Well, that was the same weekend that Dreamworks Animation (DWA) had slated for it's much touted "Monsters vs. Aliens". Katzenberg blinked first and I can't say as I blame him as the long awaited comeback of James Cameron would seem to overwhelm any movie premiere. So DWA moved Monsters vs. Aliens to an Easter 2009 release. Eventually Cameron decided he needed more time for processing the photo-realistic aspects of the movie so he also moved his blockbuster to December 2009. Do you see all this shuffling well in advance of the movies?

That's not all. In this young 3D revolution there has already been a conflict that did some damage: "U2 3D" vs. Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus and her 3D concert movie. The kid won. And in this case, "U2 3D" suffered, which in my opinion is the vastly superior movie. Hannah Montana went on to gross over $65 million domestically! "U2 3D" has made just under $10 million. Had these concerts been spread out so that the 3D screens were shared correctly you would have seen much higher numbers for Bono and company.

So having enough 3D screens is very important to the bottom line of your 3D movie! Empirically we know that already but it was proven with "U2 3D". I believe that the major reason why Disney has come out of their shell and broadcast their release slate straight through to 2012 no less is because they want to SEW UP THOSE TIMESLOTS. It makes perfect sense to do so.

What this means is that DWA is now looking at a rapidly filling calendar and another two animation studios committing to 3D only. Top that off with George Lucas who is steadfastly waiting for the number of 3D screens to hit in the 5000 ballpark in order to re-release his Star Wars franchise! The going just got tougher for Lucas as those sought after holiday dates are slipping away - he may have to commit to some dates now to make sure the distribution is even logistically feasible.

Eventually there will be enough 3D screens that this becomes much less of a issue but for the next 4 years it is a REAL issue. I just hope that all the players participate as fairly as possible - it was not in the best interest of the industry for Disney to stake out only 2 weeks for Hannah Montana and then go on to say that it will run its course.

I have said it before: Open dialogue is the key. Let's keep talking guys...

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