NATO president John Fithian responded to remarks made by Jeffrey Katzenberg about the slow pace of 3D cinema installations. In a Variety interview, Fithian previewed a speech he is scheduled to make at ShowCanada today.
Fithian countered that some of the studios can’t agree on what they’ll pay the top three circuits in virtual print fees and that circuits need to have those fees in place before they can make the costly investment.
He wouldn’t name names, but industry insiders say that Disney, 20th Century Fox and Paramount are close to agreement with exhibs, while Warner Bros. is far behind. Universal and Sony are still in talks.
Katzenberg “suggested it is the cinema companies who are dragging their feet,” Fithian said. “That is not the case,” he added.
Further, Fithian noted that Katzenberg’s colleague, Steven Spielberg has been, at best, lukewarm about the conversion to digital cinema.
There was an outcry among theater owners earlier this year when Par suggested it wouldn’t supply digital prints of Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” because Spielberg wanted the movie played only as film on 35mm screens. Filmmakers including Spielberg sometimes balk at having their movies shown in digital when they were shot on film.
Not providing a film like “Crystal Skull” on digital would slight theater owners who have made the conversion, according to exhibs. Theater owners have long argued that there’s no reason to make the transition if the product isn’t there.
Par changed its position and will be releasing digital prints of “Indiana Jones.” Exhibs aren’t entirely mollified, though, since digital prints will go only to those houses where all the screens are digital. If there’s a mix of screens in a theater, that theater will get only a film print.
Spielberg a print tease? Get your popcorn, the show isn’t over. It’s only intermission.