Although 3-D movies have been around since the 1950s, DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg described them Tuesday as "nothing less than the greatest innovation that has happened for all of us in the movie business since the advent of color 70 years ago." The difference today, Katzenberg seemed to suggest, is the ability to control the 3-D product using digital technology. He made his comments at ShoWest, the Las Vegas conference of movie exhibitors. Katzenberg also suggested that 3-D movies permit theaters to offer something that is "far superior" to anything available to consumers at home. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times following his address, he observed that 3-D would likely add about $15 million in extra expenses per production but that he expected that amount to be easily recouped as a result of burgeoning attendance and increased prices for tickets


Four of the six major studios have signed deals with Access Integrated Technologies to underwrite the costs of converting thousands of theaters to digital technology over the next three years. In effect, the deal calls for the studios -- Disney, Fox, Paramount and Universal (Warner Bros. and Sony are expected to join the group as well, reports said) -- to pay theaters what they would ordinarily pay for processing reels of film and distributing them. The theaters would then apply the "virtual print fee" to the costs of new digital projection equipment until the equipment is paid off. (Each digital projection system reportedly costs $75,000.) Distributing movies using digital media costs barely a fraction of film, which averages about $3,000-4,000 per print.


The motion picture industry's battle against piracy has reached a stalemate, MPAA chief Dan Glickman suggested Tuesday at the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas. "We are getting more advanced in tracking the crime, and they are getting more advanced in committing it," Glickman told the gathering of exhibitors. Glickman once again claimed that the movie industry loses about $6 billion worldwide to piracy, but he offered no details on how the industry arrived at that figure.


The head of the National Association of Theater Owners charged Tuesday that both the owners and the studios could be earning a lot more money if the studios did not rely on an outmoded release schedule. John Fithian chastised the studios for failing to provide attractive movies throughout the year, noting that April and September are "virtually empty," because studios save their prime product for summer or the winter seasons. "They look at their calendar and wait for May and say, 'OK, now we can open our tent-pole movie.'" He said that if the studios hadn't tried to release the latest Spider-Man, Shrek, and Pirates of the Caribbean sequels all within three weeks of one another, the exhibitors "could have done at least another $50 or $60 million" -- particularly if the studios had decided to open at least some of them in April. "A good movie will be successful no matter when it is released," Fithian said