'Last Airbender' Heading to 3D

Paramount is looking to ignite the July 4th box office with bigger fireworks by converting M. Night Shyamalan's kid pic The Last Airbender to 3D. Studio is keeping the same release date of July 2.

Across Hollywood, studio toppers are furiously working to see what films they can convert. Only hours before Par's announcement, Sony announced it was converting Green Hornet and pushing the film's release back from Dec. 22 to Jan. 14.

It turns out Par has been quietly working with a company called Stereo D for more than a year on conversion testing, including on library titles. Three months ago, Stereo D -- which did some work on Avatar -- began showing Shyamalan converted footage of Airbender.

Shyamalan was ultimately satisfied, and signed onto the conversion, which cost between $5 million and $10 million, according to insiders.

"We thought their work was compelling. When was saw how the Airbender tests were developing, we said, 'now let's see if you can impress Night.' That's why we don't have to make any changes to the schedule. We just wanted to make sure we could deliver a great experience before we made the commitment," Paramount vice chair Rob Moore said.

Moore said converting 2D films to 3D is a challenge, and that Par has "found its team" in Stereo D.

From a competitive standpoint, Airbender is the only new 3D title to play over the lucrative July 4 frame. Airbender opens two weeks after Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3 bows on June 18.

Conversion continues to raise controversy, with some contending that a glut of converted titles could cheapen the new technology.

By Pamela McClintock, Variety