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Mr Hollywood at CES: Katzenberg on 3D

Maggie Shiels | 11:19 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

Jeffrey Katzenberg is, in Hollywood terms, a big kahuna.

Jeffrey KatzenbergHe is the head of DreamWorks Animation, which is behind films like Shrek, Madagascar, Antz and Monsters vs Aliens.

Before that, he rose through the ranks at Walt Disney, becoming chairman at the age of 34.

The latest title that has been applied to Mr Katzenberg is "3D evangelist". When I mentioned this to him, he enjoyed it and quickly went into top-salesman mode:

"3D is the single greatest innovation for both the making and, maybe even more importantly, the presenting of movies to movie-goers.

"There have been three revolutionary movements in the film world. The introduction of sound, colour and now 3D."

This week, Mr Katzenberg came to the Consumer Electronics Show to extol the virtues of the technology which has been the buzz of the week, appearing with 3D specs at a Samsung demonstration.

Everywhere you walk, promotions scream out at you. You are left in no doubt that the TV-makers are backing this to the hilt.

Given the industry's dismal 2009 and the economic downturn, they certainly need something to help revive interest. And 3D seems to be what every company from Sony to LG and from Samsung to Panasonic is pinning their hopes on. At CES, 3D is like a runaway train.

Mr Katzenberg notes that as far as Hollywood has been concerned, the commitment to 3D has been there for some time:

"Many people believed this was going to be a fantastic opportunity. Many film-makers committed to working in 3D way before the success of Ice Age, Polar Express, Monsters vs Aliens and in particular Avatar."

Avatar just became the fastest movie ever to achieve $1bn in world ticket sales:

"There are going to be 20 3D movies in 2010 and those were all committed to before these had their success. We made that commitment frankly without anticipating what has now become this snowball of 3D into the home, onto the computer and hand-held devices."

What, though, of the leap from cinema to living room? Mr Katzenberg is again wholeheartedly positive:

"I am told that, of the 35 million TV sets to be sold in North America this year, about 10% of them will be 3D-capable. That's a very big first step."

Mr Katzenberg told me that one of the important factors the industry needs to get right in order to ensure a win for 3D is good-quality content.

"The first few years will be driven by sports and gaming, and that is for a specific demographic. It's not for everyone. I don't know how many people want to rush out and watch The View or Oprah Winfrey in 3D," he quipped. "I can tell you watching a football game on a 3D monitor is breathtaking. Watching soccer or playing Call of Duty, which is already a 3D experience, is really really fantastic."

He granted that the technology doesn't mean creatives can forget about fundamentals:

"It's always about the story-telling. 100%. This is another tool for telling the story really well, but it will not make a bad movie good, and it's not going to make an appalling story appealing."

Mr Katzenberg has staked his reputation and the company's future on the format by committing to make every movie in 3D. Are you convinced?

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