UPDATE: One of the quotes I used has been pulled out of the article by Variety; I’ve noted it below.

The following is something Dreamworks head Jeffrey Katzenberg may or may not have said in his 3D Summit keynote (I don’t have a full transcript): 3D helps filmmakers tell better stories. But this is what Katzenberg did say: we know people will pay even more for this, and you’re not charging enough for 3D. Still have any illusions that the push toward 3D has any goal other than making money for studios? Read More »

Last week I recieved a mysterious e-mail:

Happy New Year –

please keep a lookout for an exciting announcement crossing the AP Wire this
Sunday, January 4th concerning the new film, MONSTERS VS. ALIENS.
Ooze gonna’ save us in 2009?

I sent a inquiry out to my Twitter followers trying to figure out what the big announcement could be, but got no response. But today ComingSoon recieved a tip revealing all.

Apparently Monsters Vs. Aliens will be the first movie trailer in Superbowl (or maybe even television history?) to be broadcast in 3D. On February 1st, during the Superbowl, the 3D trailer will air. So where do you get the 3D glasses for this experiment? Well, as you might have heard, NBC is also airing a special 3D episode of Chuck later in the month (the trailer is likely to re-air in 3D at that time). Viewers will be instructed to pick up special glasses at any Sobe or Pepsi display at participating retailers to be able to watch the commercial and television show in 3D. I love the idea behind the concept, but the execution is pretty baffling.

Sadly, this is Anaglyphic 3D technology (aka Red eye/Blue eye)  which is 50 year old technology. I’ve heard Jeffrey Katzenberg speak about the dangers of the public’s perception of that old technology. His big pitch is that the new technology is far superior, and that the concept of Anaglyph is holding the 3D movement back. I’ve been a big supporter of DreamWorks Animation’s 3D workflow, and the technology, but this seems backwards, even to me. James Cameron has also been outspoken against studios using Anaglyphic technology for DVD releases.  So it seems strange that Katzenberg would use the old technology to promote the new technology. Almost sad.

Update: Apparently Anaglyphic 3D technology (aka Red eye/Blue eye) will not be employed for this stunt, even though red/blue glasses are shown in the television advertisements. The glasses will use Intel InTru 3D and ColorCode 3-D, and Katzenberg says it will be better than the old anaglphic technology but not anywhere close to that of today’s 3D digital cinema. But from what I understand, ColorCode 3-D is amber and blue lens, and is only a slight improvement on the old Anaglyphic technology.

photo credit tvbythenumbers

Dreamworks May Start Charging $5 Extra for 3D Movies

Variety reported this past week on some important goings-on in the world of 3D at the 3D Entertainment Summit in Century City. Apparently, 3D is the future of cinema (not surprising, given the summit’s title), but there were also some interesting statistics revealed:

  • Despite the growth in the number of 3D screens in America, they consistently generate twice the audience and three times the amount of revenue of 2D screens
  • The 3D screens playing Bolt, Meet the Robinsons, and Chicken Little outperformed their 2D counterparts by 2.5 to 1.
  • For Dreamworks Animation, the cost of making a film into 3D is an extra $15 million

One of the most significant quotes comes from Jeffrey Katzenberg of Dreamworks. According to Katzenberg, 3D is “a premium experience and has the consumer paying a premium price.” Katzenberg stated that Dreamworks will start charging $5 extra for their 3D films starting with Monsters vs. Aliens in 2009.

I’m quite ambivalent about this news. On the one hand, I understand that more work is required for 3D films, both from the producers of a film and from the theaters that must somehow project the images and have the infrastructure in place to distribute glasses, etc. On the other hand, I don’t feel like the quality of the 3D films I’ve seen recently (specifically Bolt and Beowulf which both would have cost me about $10-12), would have motivated me to fork over an extra $5 just to catch them in 3D.

Editors (Peter Sciretta) Note: In San Francisco, most theaters charge a $2.50 surcharge for 3D films, but I’m not sure if that is the case all around the country.

Discuss: Do guys think it’d be worth it?

22% of Vanity Fair’s Top 100 are Filmmakers

Vanity Fair has released the VF 100 – an annual listing of the top 100 leaders of the information age. Below you can find a listing of movie related entries on the list. Check out the full list on VanityFair.com.

4. Steve Jobs – Former Pixar CEO, Member of Disney’s Board of Directors
9. Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt – Actors
14. Steven Spielberg – Director, Producer, Dreamworks co-founder
22. David Geffen – Dremworks Co-founder
23. George Lucas – Writer, Director, Producer, Chairman of LucasFilm
24. Jerry Bruckheimer – Producer
28. John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird – Pixar’s creative team
32. Sumner Redstone – Majority Owner of Paramount Pictures
33. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Actor
34. Tom Hanks – Actor, Producer
35. Robert Iger – Head of the Walt Disney Company
43. Oprah Winfrey – Actress (kinda), Producer
44. Jon Stewart – Comedian, Actor
45. Stephen Colbert – Comedian, Actor
53. Jeffrey Katzenberg – Dreamworks co-founder, CEO of Dreamworks Animation
55. George Clooney – Actor, Producer
58. Judd Apatow – Producer, Writer, Director
59. Robert De Niro – Actor, Producer, Director
66. Brian Grazer/Ron Howard – Producer/Director
85. The Coen Brothers – Writers, Directors, Producers
87. The Weinstein Brothers – The Weinstien Co
93. Jerry Weintraub – Producer

How Dreamworks Animation is Innovating 3D

/Film was invited to the Dreamworks Animation campus to preview some footage from Monsters vs. Aliens, and take a tour of the company’s new 3D process (which is actually pretty incredible… more on that later). It all began when Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg saw a screening of Robert Zemeckis’ Polar Express in IMAX 3D.

“I was so blown away by the presentation. I literally came scurrying back here and said, this is a game change,” Katzenberg told /Film and a small group of other online press. “The implications of this movie theater experience are something I have not seen or imagined in my 35 years of doing this and I think it is a huge opportunity and we need to get on it.”

Katzenberg explained that filmmaking has been through two great revolutions, the first being the transition from silent film to talkies, and the second being the transition from black and white to color. He insists that 3D is the next great revolution.

“The movie theater experience has not been innovated in any meaningful way in decades. Meanwhile, the home experience with the big flat screen tvs and surround sound, blu-ray and everything else has just become amazing. So one experience has stood still while the other has continued to rise up.”

Movie attendance continues to fall as the popularity of the home theater and on demand movie watching builds. This leads us to Katzenberg’s passionate plea to keep the movie theater experience alive.

“I love the movie theater experience. I think that it’s very special when a couple hundred people to share a experience. Everything is amplified – things are scarier. Things are funnier. Things are sadder. Everything in that shared experience is enhanced. And I would like that experience to stay around and to me this offers the first opportunity to innovate the theater experience in ways we can’t in our home for many years to come.”

He admits that 3D will eventually be possible in your home theater, but says its probably “10 years out”. And even then he likens it to “the difference between a live sport event and being in the arena and everything that it brings and how immersive it is vs. watching it on TV.”

“Samsung is making monitors right now that are 3D capable, so I don’t think that’s the challenge. It’s actually the viewing experience,” Katzenberg explaned. “There’s 2 things about 3D in order to really give the full Rolls Royce version of it. One is the size of the screen needs to hit your peripheral vision. If you think about it, if you have a 50” television set that means that you actually sit no further than 50” away from the TV. So that’s here. You don’t sit that close to your TV.” … “The second thing is that the more light, the more it diminishes the 3D experience and so I made a joke which is I walked around my house in terms of where I have a TV set and the only place I can go in my home in which I can have a 3D experience as good as what I can have in the movie theatre is in coat closet where I come into my….and I can’t fit a 50” TV in there, so it’s light actually kind of dissipates it a fair amount. You can do it in the home but it’s not going to be, again

So why now? What’s changed?

“These are polarized glasses as opposed to my father’s 3D: The blue and red anaglyph, which kind of disintegrated… forget the fact they were made of cardboard, beyond that they sort of disintegrate the color and the art of the film. They were really more for gimmick than a quality experience.”

Secondly the technology behind the projection of 3D films which allows for “absolute precision in doing the right eye left eye so that all of the imperfections and things that we all associate with the old 3D, in terms of what happens on the theater side, are corrected. And if you remember, with the old 3D, there were two projectors, and if you’re trying to line those things up, it is impossible to have precision in it. And those imperfections cause many of those things that people identify with motion blur, eye strain, nausea, those things.”

But the third thing Katzenberg touted was the new tools to create the technology. This is where Dreamworks Animation is taking 3D to the next level. Until now most 3D films have created in a post production process, something Katzenberg compares to the equivalent of a black and white movie being colorized.

“If you have seen a black and white movie that has been colorized, it is that big of a gap. Because a movie that was designed and shot in black and white, everything about it from the set dressing to the cinematography to directing the film, is very specifically designed to show shades of white to black and all of the colors and skews of gray in between it,” explained Katzenberg. “So literally a color would be picked for a piece of set dressing because it would translate to a color of gray. So to go in and literally colorize it, it doesn’t look right. That’s what happens when you post-produce a movie in 3D.”

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During my visit to Dreamworks Animation Studios earlier today, the company’s CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg explained to our small group that moviegoers of the future will own their own personal 3D glasses, which he referred to as “movie glasses”.

“People today know if they go out in the sun they need sunglasses, like in tennis you need a tennis racquet. You’re gonna go to the beach, you’re gonna need a bathing suit. If you’re going to the movies, you’ll have movie glasses,” Katzenberg said. “We’ve been collaborating with the largest eye glass company in the world about an eye glass that they will hopefully have by next year, which is a transitional lens… Now you have a glass that will actually transition for you indoor to outdoor. Now this would transition from sunglasses to movie glasses. So your movie glasses will be your sunglasses.”

Now I must admit, at first I thought he had to be kidding. It almost sounded like Doc Brown talking about his latest harebrained invention. But the more I thought about the idea, the more I began to understand Katzenberg’s perspective.

Imagine for a minute that Katzenberg’s 3D dream will become a reality… That the future movie going experience is going to be in 3D. Imagine that a huge chunk of studio movies will produce and project their films in 3D. YDo you think that moviegoers of that potential future would see a benefit of owning a pair of sunglasses that could transition into “movie glasses”.  I’m interested to hear what you think?

Spielberg/Dreamworks For Dummies

Dreamworks Time MagazineHere is a rundown of all the essential information that you should know about the Spielberg/DreamWorks situation, and the current developments by Steven to raise a billion dollars for independence:

In 1994, Steven Spielberg founded DreamWorks with Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen (forming the SKG present on the bottom of the DreamWorks logo) and a $500 million investment from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Over the next fourteen years, Spielberg directed eight films under his new studio (Amistad-Munich), a streak that ended in May 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

DreamWorks won three consecutive best picture Academy Awards starting in 1999 with American Beauty (followed by Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind).

Despite critical acclaim and a bevy of award winning films, DreamWorks came close to bankruptcy twice, primarily due to the failure of two large budget films: Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas and The Island.

Spielberg wanted to sell DreamWorks to Universal, a movie studio which he considered home most of his career. In fact, Steven’s Amblin offices are still located on the Universal backlot. Parent company G.E. lowered its offer by $100 million, forcing the founders to sell the studio to Viacom, the parent company of Paramount Pictures in February 2006. The deal was valued at approximately $1.6 billion, an amount that included about $400 million in debt assumptions. As part of that agreement, the founders agreed to three-year contracts. DreamWorks Animation, run by Jeffrey Katzenberg, remained an independent company with a deal to have its movies distributed by Paramount until 2012.

Paramount set a new record in July 2007 by becoming the first movie studio to hit $1 billion for the year, an achievement almost entirely due to films from the DreamWorks pipeline. DreamWorks’ movies accounted for about two- thirds of Paramount’s box office

The founders became increasingly unhappy about their arrangement with Paramount, believing that Viacom was not sufficiently appreciative of their contributions.

Geffen was critical of Viacom and its chief executive, Sumner M. Redstone in a November 2007 Vanity Fair article: “Redstone, he is accustomed to bullying people. And I will not be bullied. There is no fight I will run from. I am absolutely unafraid of Sumner Redstone.” … “It is my job to look out for Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg and our employees and the people we are in business with. I chose to sell this company to Paramount. It has turned out to be a poor choice.”

Viacom announced it would not renew DreamWorks’ contract. Spielberg’s contract runs until 2010, but he possesses the ability to terminate it early at year’s end. Chief executive Stacey Snider and chairman David Geffen have similar escape clauses. On May 1st 2008, a window opened up, allowing them to bargain with other studios about taking their services elsewhere.

What’s at stake: Spielberg and Geffin don’t own the rights to the DreamWorks name, but neither does Paramount. If the duo were to leave,  Katzenberg, who runs DreamWorks Animation, could withdraw rights to the name from Paramount and grant them to Spielberg. The duo no longer hold ownership of their past catalog and current development deals. However, according to THR, “Spielberg’s rights regarding involvement on sequels could trigger negotiations over which films he brings with him and which would remain under Par’s control.” Its also likely that the team would lose most, if not all, of their staff.

On June 10th 2008 Spielberg announced that he hopes to raise more than $1 billion in third-party financing to reinvent DreamWorks as an independent company.

Universal Pictures realizes their mistake in losing their bid for the company to Dreamworks a decade earlier and enters into a bidding war with Paramount, Universal, Disney and Fox for the rights to distribute future DreamWorks movies. Warner Bros has decided to sit this one out.

Monsters vs. Aliens

United Artists is targeting August 8th 2008 (8-8-08) to release the Bryan Singer-directed Valkyrie which stars Tom Cruise in the real life story of the attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler at the height of World War II. Valkyrie will go head to head with New Line’s Journey 3-D, Sony’s Pineapple Express, Disney’s South of the Border, and Warner Bros’ The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. [via: ComingSoon]

Dreamworks Animation is moving Monsters vs. Aliens up one week for a May 15th 2009 release to avoid direct competition with James Cameron’s Avatar. This a a good move since both films are going to be released in digital 3D. Today only around 800 screens are equipped with the digital projection technology to allow 3D projection, but Jeffrey Katzenberg has told people that he wanted to debut Monsters vs. Aliens on 6,000 screens. And I’m sure Katzenberg doesn’t want to share the screens with Cameron’s movie. This will at least give Monsters vs. Aliens a one week competition free head start.

Paramount not a Dream for Spielberg and Co

dreamworks bad

It looks like all is not right in Spielberg-land.
Read More »