Get Your Glasses: 3D Poised to Take over Movies

If Dreamworks Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg is right, you'll soon be out shopping for the latest in designer glasses. 3D glasses that is. Hollywood studios such as Dreamworks, Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox are betting 3D will finally become the next big thing in film, luring moviegoers to the theater with advancements in a technology that first caught viewers' attention in the 1950s.

"In five to seven years, all movies will be made in 3D," Katzenberg said at the start of an inaugural four-day 3D festival in Singapore. "Everyone will have their own glasses. It will become a fashion statement."

Disney, which plans to produce 17 movies in 3D over the next three years, is looking to promote the technology around the world by helping to subsidize the conversion of screens to digital, and then to 3D - a process that will costs billions of dollars.

"There's been a tremendous investment in 3D," Disney Studios Motion Group President Mark Zoradi said. "We really believe in this medium."

The 3D film technique works by creating the life-like illusion that the images are three dimensional, instead of the 'flat' images normally seen on movie screens and TV. Movies shot in 3D can still only be shown on about 1,400 of the 30,000 screens in the U.S., and just 700 abroad. Theater-owners have been reluctant to invest in the changeover, especially in the midst of a global economic slowdown. Dreamworks had initially expected to show its next big 3D animation Monsters Vs. Aliens on 5,000 screens next year, but it will be viewed on less than half that amount.

"The rest of the world is about 12 to 24 months behind the U.S. in getting digital installed," Zoradi said.

Singapore, which has committed to hosting the annual 3D festival until at least 2017, hopes to become a leader of 3D media in Asia. The government of the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state is investing $10 million over the next two years to fund 3D projects, production, post-production and training facilities. "We'd like to be in a nice position when all this takes off, and we see it taking off very quickly," said Lee Boon Yang, minister of information, communications and the arts.

The evolution of 3D technology over the next 20 years could eventually lead to movie theaters that show holographic films, Katzenberg said.

"In sound, we've gone from vinyl, to 8-track, to cassette, to CD, to digital," Katzenberg said. "The flat screen movies of today are the equivalent of vinyl record. This is the beginning of an extraordinary change in how all video is experienced."

By Alex Kennedy, The Associated Press