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Regal, Real D partner in 3D theater upgrade

Nation's largest cinema operator says it has reached an agreement with Real D to upgrade 1,500 screens with 3D technology.

Regal Entertainment Group, the nation's largest movie theater chain, said Tuesday it has reached an agreement with Real D to upgrade 1,500 screens with 3D technology.

The Regal deal is the largest commitment to 3D by any theater chain, the companies said, raising the number of screens running Real D's 3D technology to more than 3,500.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The launch will allow most U.S. markets to have 3D capability and will commence upon the completion of the Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP) initiative, the companies said.

"We look forward to the finalization of the DCIP deals, which will allow Regal to commence the expanded 3D roll-out," Regal CEO Mike Campbell said in a statement.

Filmmaker James Cameron told attendees Tuesday at Microsoft's Advance 08 advertising conference that he sees great promise in 3D movies.

"When you are viewing in stereo, which is what we do, more neurons are firing," he said. "More blood is pumping through the brain."

Cameron, who has been a big proponent of making movies in 3D, said that the digital projectors going into movie theaters are capable of showing more than just movies.

"That digital image can be live," Cameron said. "That digital image can be 3D."

More than 1,000 theaters in the U.S. already have stereoscopic--3D-capable--projectors. Cameron hopes that there will be 5,000 such facilities by the time his 3D movie Avatar debuts next year.

However, retrofitting theaters is expensive and difficult, and many have voiced concerns that there won't be enough 3D-capable screens to accommodate the large slate of 3D movies expected in the coming years.

"I feel as though things have dragged along, and it's been pretty disappointing," DreamWorks Animation SKG Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg said last month, according to Reuters.

Katzenberg said in a statement that he believes the Regal and Real D partnership "marks a defining moment for the greatest transformation in movie-going in 70 years."