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Can James Cameron Save Hollywood?

Many in Tinseltown don't know it yet but Hollywood is in trouble. Video might have killed the radio star but technology is about to put Hollywood out of business. James Cameron is one man in Hollywood who gets it.

"Titanic" director: digital cinema will save biz
By Sheigh Crabtree

LAS VEGAS (Hollywood Reporter) - "Titanic" director James Cameron, warning that Hollywood is "in a fight for survival," wants the movie industry to offer films in digital 3-D to counteract declining sales and rampant piracy.

"Maybe we just need to fight back harder, come out blazing, not wither away and die," Cameron said during his keynote address Sunday at the National Association of Broadcasters' Digital Cinema Summit.

"D-cinema can do it, for a number of reasons, but because d-cinema is an enabling technology for 3-D. Digital 3-D is a revolutionary form of showmanship that is within our grasp. It can get people off their butts and away from their portable devices and get people back in the theaters where they belong."

Cameron also took the occasion of the world's largest annual film and broadcast technology trade show at the Las Vegas Convention Center to fire a few shots across the bow of the controversial practice of simultaneous movie and video releasing being promoted by entrepreneur Mark Cuban and "Bubble" director Steven Soderbergh, among others.

"We're so scared of piracy right now that we're ready to pimp out our mothers," Cameron said. "This whole day-and-date DVD release nonsense? Here's an answer: (Digital cinema is) one of the strongest reasons I've been pushing 3-D for the past few years because it offers a powerful experience which you can only have in the movie theater.

Hollywood and technology have been inexorably linked from the beginning. It was the simple act of making people move on screen that gave birth to Hollywood. For 110 years now, since the first movie theatre opened its doors on Canal Street in New Orleans, people have been paying movie theaters because the movie industry had the technology. Both to produce the content and to distribute it.

Those days are gone.

The "home theater" race for years was to give the viewer an experience that was analogous to going to the movies. Now many have decided the home theater is preferable to a public venue.

50" Plasmas can now be found at discount clubs for a pinch over $2000. Dolby 7.1 stereo is as good (or better) than many public theaters. A large popcorn won't set you back $47, the people behind you won't be kicking your chair and talking (unless they are your kids) and best of all, you have a pause button.

Video consumption, like audio, will always be about convenience. People didn't move from reel-to-reels to the 8-track tapes because the music sounded better. It didn't. They moved for the form factor. Same can be said of vinyl, cassette, CDs, Walkmans and iPods. Consumers have always been willing to sacrifice quality for portability. And in the digital age they can have both.

Now video is undergoing that same revolution and James Cameron understands that. That's why he's pushing for new technology in movie theaters. If they lose the technological edge they fade away. -- And if you don't think the ubiquitous megaplex can fade away, call the local symphony and ask how sales are going. Live music was once the only way to hear music. Today it is the exception.

Adding to Hollywoods woes, is the fact they no longer have a monopoly on the production and distribution channels.

For $800 you can be editing High Def video on your Mac Mini and for only about $3000 more (and falling) you can buy your own camera to shoot it. A complete set-up for shooting and post-production can be had for under 5 grand. Studio execs no longer get to decide what gets produced based on a hunch or the performance on the casting couch.

And the distribution -the true backbone of Hollywood- is now a kid's game. Youtube and others have made it possible for Hitchcock wannabes to have worldwide distribution is seconds.

Can James Cameron's bold vision for 3-D digital cinema save Hollywood? No one knows for sure. Phillips (and others) are saying that they will be selling 3D screens -that don't require glasses- in the next 2 years. History tells us trying to hold a monopoly on technology is a fool's game. But I, for one, think it is their only chance.

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Comments (1)

How appropriate: Hollywood... (Below threshold)

How appropriate: Hollywood has steamed arrogantly full speed into an iceberg, is about to sink below the waves, and Cameron is there to direct it!