Live Sports in 3-D Could Boost Multiplexes

You’re wearing your favorite jersey and your big foam finger. You arrive early, buy your buddies some beers and find your stadium seats. Then you put on your 3-D glasses. You’re in your local movie theater.

“People want to get out of their homes for a social experience,” says Shari Redstone of National Amusement, which has already hosted 2-D sports events and has plans for 3-D upgrades. “I think (live 3-D broadcasts) will be one thing that will keep the movie theater alive.”

But hurdles remain. For one, the costs of shooting an event often are prohibitive. And so far only a few exhibitors have installed the required satellite dish and needed technology to show live events. Broadcast rights also are still an issue, especially for sports leagues that have signed lucrative exclusive contracts with broadcasters. But the noise surrounding live 3-D events is steadily getting louder.

Working with Burbank-based Pace, the NBA offered live 3-D HD viewing parties of its 2007 All-Star game at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Later that season, about 14,000 fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers turned out for a live 3-D broadcast of the team’s NBA Finals game from San Antonio.

Then in March, Mark Cuban, who owns both the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and the Landmark Theatres chain, presented a live 3-D game via satellite to fans at his Magnolia Theatre in Dallas. FSN Southwest produced the event, working with Pace, which supplied its Fusion 3-D camera system and mobile unit as well as the production crew.

Redstone and Cuban are not alone in the enthusiasm. In June, Access Integrated Technologies began a rollout of its CineLive technology, designed to enable the live theatrical broadcast of 2-D or 3-D content. The company expects to have at least 150 systems in place by year’s end.

In Europe, Arts Alliance Media has revealed plans to add a 3-D opera to its lineup. And the BBC has experimented with a 3-D satellite broadcast of the Six Nations rugby championship.

By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter