May 25, 2009

Indie Filmmakers Still Hoping For 3-D

In 2007, U2 performed at the Grand Palais of the Cannes film festival to promote their new 3-D concert movie.  Backers of the film believed the movie would bring in a new generation of 3-D films.

Independent studios are still waiting for that new era to arrive.

Three-dimensional cinema faces many hurdles including the lack of 3-D equipped theaters in Europe and Asia.

Lack of financial backing keeps many independents from expanding into 3-D film making.

Despite the financial barrier, a few indie producers are lured by the possibility of gaining new fans, and hitting it big at the box office.

This is good news for film fans, as some recent independent films have snagged Oscar gold, including this years best picture winner "Slumdog Millionaire."

Jonathan Wolf, executive vice president of U.S.-based trade group the Independent Film and Television Alliance, said he was concerned if independent filmmakers could keep pace with the major, special effects-filled movies.

The answer has proven to be yes, and it is the same with 3-D films.

"Anywhere there is commercial viability, there will be a market," Wolf said.

Three-dimensional images date back to the sci-fi films of the 1950s.  The 3-D movie genre eventually faded due to unsophisticated technology, but has recently seen resurgence with improved eyeglasses and new digital projectors.

This year, DreamWorks Animation Inc. has enjoyed a $334 million global income, bolstered by the $175 million taken in by "Monsters vs. Aliens" which was often shown in 3-D.

This year's opening night film at the Cannes Film Festival is Disney/Pixar's "Up" which will be released in 2-D and 3-D.

More three-dimensional movies are also on the slate for Hollywood filmmakers.

Part of the lure to make 3-D films is the admission price, which can be $2 to $5 more than standard ticket price. 

U.S. independent Lionsgate recently brought in $71 million at the box office with the release of its horror flick "My Bloody Valentine 3-D."  The film had a production budget of only $15 million.

Joe Drake, president of Lionsgate, said his company saw the opportunities in 3-D films, but did not know how to create one. 

The company forged on and eventually learned the technology, he added.

"The fact is, it's a very accessible, and not actually an over-complicated thing," Drake told Reuters News.

Drake declined to say how much added cost was added to "Bloody Valentine" by making it in 3-D, but did say it ran into "the millions."

According to technology experts, 3-D can add 10-15 percent cost to a film.

Jeffrey Katzenburg has said the additional cost for making one of his films in 3-D is normally around $15 million.

Currently, the higher costs of 3-D will likely keep many independents out of the market, but as costs decrease, talented independents may be able to breakthrough with the next great 3-D movie.