The Fat Lady Sings in 3-D

Comin' at ya in 3D: James Cameron's Avatar, DreamWorks' animated Monsters vs. Aliens -- and opera singers and ballet dancers. European exhibs who attended last week's Cinema Expo in Amsterdam were dazzled to meet Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Hugh Jackman and Keanu Reeves and to see such hot pics as The Dark Knight and Tropic Thunder. But exhibs were also excited by the prospect of 16 cultural films, many in 3D, that could fill their usually half-empty cinemas during weekend matinees and early weekday evenings.

London-based digital cinema company Arts Alliance Media, headed by Howard Kiedaisch, was tubthumping for its slate of live and pre-recorded 2D and 3D opera and ballet works from London's Royal Opera House and Royal Albert Hall, Madrid's Teatro Real, Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu and the San Francisco Ballet.

The slate of 16 perfs, including six live events, kicks off in September with Mozart's Don Giovanni from the Royal Opera House and closes June 2009 with Verdi's La Traviata.

"It is not so easy for the opera lover living in somewhere like England's Lake District to get to the opera in Madrid. This is the next best -- no, sometimes even better -- thing to attending live opera," said Dutchman Hans Petri, m.d. of Opus Arte, the Royal Opera House's production and distribution company, which partnered with AAM on the project.

Expo conversations were dominated by talk of the need for digital cinema to pick up pace in Europe so that the 3D revolution can take hold. Most Hollywood execs including Jeffrey Katzenberg, Fox's Tomas Jegeus and Paramount's Andrew Cripps all hyped the paradigm-shifting potential of the new wave of 3D cinema.

By Archie Thomas, Variety