The country’s leading 3D provider charged in a U.S. District Court in California that Volfoni’s SmartCrystal Diamond 3D process for theaters violates RealD‘s U.S. patents. But the Paris-based 3D technology company seemed to take a victory lap in its release today about RealD’s decision to drop its suit. Volfoni said it denies that there’s a problem with U.S. patents and “asserts that RealD has no corresponding international patents for the U.S. patents at issue in the lawsuit.” So was it a victory for Volfoni? Not so fast, RealD says. It decided to drop the suit “only after Volfoni made specific representations and warranties that it had not sold or distributed, and is not selling or distributing, the Smart Diamond Crystal product in the United States.” If that changes, then “RealD has reserved the right to continue the suit against Volfoni in the same court, at the company’s discretion.” And it could take the fight overseas: RealD says its XL Cinema System has patents in Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico and Russia “and intends to vigorously enforce its international intellectual property rights for all RealD products in order to stop copying and unlicensed use of its inventions by others.”
There’s nothing wrong with 3D movies that can’t be fixed if directors pay more attention to details in the productions, studios do more to promote them, and theaters offer them on additional screens. At least that’s the way RealD CFO Drew Skarupa described things in his appearance today at the MKM Partners Investor Day Conference. The 3D technology company has been in Wall Street’s dog house lately as the percentage of box office sales for 3D films has declined. The format accounts for about 33% of domestic sales for films that offer the option, down from 43% last year; elsewhere the take rate has fallen to 47% from 61%. Skarupa acknowledges that some 3D films don’t take full advantage of the extra dimension, usually because they’re converted to 3D after being shot in 2D. Although “conversions have gotten better and better,” they aren’t as good as films shot in 3D. For example Warner Bros’ upcoming Gravity is “a must-see in 3D. It’s a made-for 3D movie.” But persuading filmmakers to change will be “an evolution. It’s not going to happen overnight.” RealD is trying to help by advising some directors and “giving them ideas about the shot.” Meanwhile the company wants studios to step up their marketing — it has “come down a bit.” And theaters need to “increase those [3D] show times” especially on weekend evenings. RealD’s exit surveys found that about 25% of movie-goers love 3D, and an equal number dislike it. The remaining 50% “we call the swing vote, it’s heavily influenced by showtime and marketing…It’s important for us to focus on that 50%.”
The Cameron-Pace Group, announced today at the start of the National Association of Broadcasters confab in Las Vegas, “seeks to accelerate worldwide growth of 3D across all entertainment platforms including features, episodic and live television, sports, advertising and consumer products.” The company, run by co-chairman James Cameron and longtime collaborator Vince Pace, will offer next-generation camera systems, services and creative tools to the entire entertainment industry, not just film. “Our goal is to banish all the perceived and actual barriers to entry that are currently holding back producers, studios and networks from embracing their 3D future,” Cameron said. “We are dedicated to building a global brand that is synonymous with high-quality 3D and spans multiple channels, from features to episodic television, and changes the boundaries of what is understood to be 3D material.”
Cameron and Pace developed under Pace’s company PACE the Fusion 3D system, which was used for the 3D in such films as Avatar, Tron: Legacy and U2: 3D. PACE has begun the formal rebranding process, and its operation under the Cameron-Pace Group banner is effective immediately. CPG will be headquartered in Burbank, Calif., the current home to PACE.
CPG already is working on film projects that include Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Three Musketeers,The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Life of Pi and 47 Ronin.
A trailer has been released for Sanctum, the James Cameron-produced feature that Alister Grierson directed based on the natural mishap that befell a team of cave divers in Australia. The film will be released February 4, and is considered an important next step in Cameron’s evolution of 3D technology for films that don’t have to be made on the budget scale of Avatar, but look superior to films shot in 2D and then converted. The $30 million film, financed by Wayfare Entertainment, was scripted Andrew Wight and John Garvin. The drama is based on the near-death experience of Wight, who has collaborated with Cameron on such docus as Aliens of the Deep and Ghosts of the Abyss, and who led the perilous dive expedition.
A war of words broke out today between Avatar director James Cameron and producer Mark Canton over whether Weinstein Co/Dimension’s current version of Piranha 3D is a crapfest. (Cameron was hired and then fired as the director of the original 1981 Piranha Part 2). Here’s what they are saying:
Cameron told VanityFair.com while publicizing his Avatar re-release: “I tend almost never to throw other films under the bus, but [Piranha 3D] is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3D horror films from the ’70s and ’80s, like Friday The 13th 3D. When movies got to the bottom of the barrel of their creativity and at the last gasp of their financial lifespan, they did a 3-D version to get the last few drops of blood out of the turnip. And that’s now what’s happening now with 3D. It is a renaissance. Right now the biggest and best films are being made in 3D. Martin Scorsese is making a film in 3D [Hugo Cabret]. Disney’s biggest film of the year – Tron: Legacy — is coming out in 3D. So it’s a whole new ballgame.”
Canton issued this rebuttal via Dimension’s PR department: “As a producer in the entertainment industry, Jim Cameron’s comments on VanityFair.com are very disappointing to me and the team that made Piranha 3D. Mr. Cameron, who singles himself out to be a visionary of movie-making, seems to have a small vision regarding any motion pictures that are not his own. It is amazing that in the movie-making process – which is certainly a team sport – that Cameron consistently celebrates himself out as though he is a team of one. His comments are ridiculous, self-serving and insulting to those of us who are not caught up in serving his ego and his rhetoric.
Jim, are you kidding or what? First of all, let’s start by you accepting the fact that you were the original director of Piranha 2 and you were fired. Shame on you for thinking that genre movies and the real maestros like Roger Corman and his collaborators are any less auteur or impactful in the history of cinema than you. Martin Scorcese made Boxcar Bertha at the beginning of his career. And Francis Ford Coppola made Dimentia 13 back in 1963. And those are just a few examples of the talented and successful filmmakers whose roots are in genre films. Who are you to impugn any genre film or its creators?