Hopes Pinned on 3D at CineAsia

3D technology dominated the three-day CineAsia trade show and convention, held for the second time in the South China gambling capital Macau from December 9-11. Film projection equipment companies such as Christie Digital Systems, Dolby Laboratories, Barco N.V. and Doremi Cinema showcased their latest 3D projectors and digital cinema servers, while studios raced to screen their upcoming 3D movies, such as Walt Disney's Bolt in Disney digital 3D, clips of Paramount & DreamWorks Animations' Monsters vs. Aliens and Universal's Coraline in RealD 3D.

"3D is driving digital cinema today," said Michael Archer, Doremi's vp of digital cinema said Thursday. "3D releases had two-third more grosses than 2D versions of the same film. As there will be thirteen 3D releases in 2009, exhibitors are switching from single to multiple 3D screens in multiplexes."

Despite the global economic downturn equipment providers remained optimistic.

"Business has slowed down a little, but there is still lots of potential for growth in China and India," said Juliana Tong, Christie's marketing manager. Christie has provided 100 3D digital projection units to the Shanghai Film Group to install in its Shanghai United Circuit of theaters this year.

Distributors also kept their hopes high, many of them citing the argument that going to the movies is a relatively cheap form of entertainment.

Erlina Suharjono, Warner Bros. Pictures International's senior vp of Asia distribution screened the upcoming Jim Carrey motivational comedy Yes Man at the convention. Business in Asia has remained steady since the economic crisis hit, Suharjono said, noting, however that depreciating currency was posing a threat to profits.

"In Korea when the currency has dropped 40%, theatrical admissions were about the same but as a result, we have 40% less gross," she explained.

The downturn in the economy also took a toll on CineAsia itself, as has the recent terrorist bombing in Mumbai and the airport-closing anti-government protest in Bangkok. CineAsia's attendance dropped around 15% this year, said organizer Bob Sunshine, executive director of Nielsen Business Media Film Group. The number of booths also shrank from 2007, owing mainly to the tightened purse strings of U.S. companies.

Sunshine remained hopeful for next year's event. "I can't guess when the economic crisis is going to pass, but Asia will rebound quicker than the U.S.," he said.

The convention concluded in an upbeat mood, honoring industry leaders such as Mark Zucker of Sony Pictures Releasing International, named distributor of the year. Tushar Dhingra of India's BIG Cinemas was named the exhibitor of the year.

The CineAsia Visionary Award was given to Gareth Wigan of Sony Pictures Entertainment; Sony's Terminator: Salvation Director McG, who was in Dubai to present the film, was honored as the Kodak Filmmaker of the Year.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter