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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
August 31

Entertainment News August 31 - TOP 3 Stories for Thursday

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3-D HEADED TO YOUR LIVING ROOM

You've got your popcorn and a drink, your main squeeze is by your side, and you're settling in to watch the latest hit movie. You slap on your 3-D glasses and fixate on the big screen.

You're in your living room.

Sound odd? It might not be that far off. While the digital cinema movement has prompted a rebirth of interest in stereoscopic 3-D in movie theaters, the dialogue is quickly expanding to home entertainment.

"We will have 3-D in the home, definitely," said Chris Cookson, president of Warner Bros. Technical Operations and chief technology officer for the Warner Bros. Entertainment group of companies. "All the things that we need have been invented. It's just a matter of someone committing to bring it to market. The question we all have is: Does it become a fad or part of the mainstream?"

Buzz Hays, senior producer 3-D stereoscopic feature films at Sony Pictures Imageworks, believes that with today's more advanced digital projection methods, special glasses and production techniques, the perception of 3-D as a gimmick is beginning to change. "It was a different time," he said of the 3-D fad in the 1950s. "It seemed to be more about the technology (than content). Now I think we are past that."

On the theatrical side, such leading filmmakers as James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis are serious about developing quality theatrical 3-D content, contributing to a new level of confidence in the market. Paramount Pictures expects about 1,000 3-D-ready digital cinema screens to be installed in North America theaters in time for the studio's Nov. 16 release of Zemeckis' "Beowulf."

With all this, some stakeholders predict that the introduction of 3-D home entertainment is imminent. "We can and have started to migrate many of these (3-D) technologies into consumer products for shooting, editing, broadcasting and displaying 3-D content in the home," 3ality principal Sandy Climan said.

So what will home viewers need in their living rooms? A 3-D-ready display (some of which are already on the market), special glasses and modified playback means (coming soon).

Several set manufacturers have unveiled 3-D-ready displays. Texas Instruments' DLP technology was developed to be 3-D-ready, and that capability is built in to many DLP displays. Said TI's DLP brand and marketing manager Doug Darrow: "We're basically giving the consumer the option to future-proof their TV purchase."

Many of Samsung's 2007 DLP HDTV sets are 3-D ready, and next month the company plans to release a package that includes new Tri-Def 3-D Experience software from DDD, LCD shutter glasses and other accessories to enable 3-D from a PC platform. Samsung and DDD, a 3-D software and content company, said the package means that such popular PC games as "The Sims" and "Dome" can be played in stereoscopic 3-D. In addition, DDD CEO Chris Yewdall said that features played through the system also could be viewed in the format.

HALLOWEEN REMAKE SHOULD TOP BOX OFFICE WEEKEND

The calendar might say Labor Day, but moviegoers this holiday weekend at the North American boxoffice are just as likely to be celebrating Halloween - or, make that "Halloween," Rob Zombie's remake of John Carpenter's classic 1978 slasher movie.

While the current film, the eighth to be spun off of the original "Halloween," appears to be jumping the gun holidaywise, it's just one of a trio of new wide releases that will bid for the attention of younger males while the rest of the family is off celebrating summer's end.

The Weinstein brothers' Miramax Films acquired the rights to the "Halloween" franchise in 1994 and released the sixth film in the series, "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers," under their Dimension Films label in 1995. They followed up with two updates, "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later," which opened to $16.2 million in 1998, and "Halloween: Resurrection," which bowed to $12.3 million in 2002.

This time, though, Dimension - which took the franchise with it when the Weinsteins left the Walt Disney Co. - has returned to the drawing board. Rocker Zombie, who cut his teeth as a director on "House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects," has gone back to Carpenter's original tale of knife-wielding mental institution escapee Michael Myers and written and directed a movie that is as much prequel (with a look at Myers' horrific childhood) as a remake.

Rather than hold the film for Halloween weekend, during which Lionsgate is planning to release its "Saw IV," Dimension (which is releasing the film through MGM) is looking to the Labor Day weekend, which has been kind to genre fare ever since "Jeepers Creepers" opened to $15.8 million in 2001.

Naturally R-rated, the new "Halloween" - starring Malcolm McDowell as shrink Dr. Loomis, Scout Taylor-Compton as baby sitter Laurie Strode and Tyler Mane as the adult Michael Myers - will be aiming for $20 million in 3,472 theaters during the four-day weekend, which would put it in first position.

ESPN TO HOLD OFF ON SCRIPTED TV

After such ratings and creative successes as "Playmakers" and "3," ESPN is taking a timeout from the scripted business. With the end this week of the eight-part miniseries "The Bronx Is Burning," nothing else is planned or likely to be green-lighted any time soon, ESPN executives said Thursday.

Instead, the company will spend more time on its bread and butter sports properties and news-oriented shows while announcing plans to run selected documentaries. And in the fall, it's launching an investigative series titled "ESPN Reports."

That amounts to a holding pattern in terms of the Hollywood-style development in what used to be called ESPN Original Entertainment, responsible for those types of shows and a short-lived daily news program titled "ESPN Hollywood." And it's a marked shift from the days of former executive vp Mark Shapiro, who sought to broaden the company's appeal to more than just sporting events and scores.

Today, ESPN executives say that sports and strictly sports-related content are what its audience wants. John Skipper, who as executive vp content for ESPN is in charge of content across ESPN's many platforms, said it's not about broadening the audience but instead about giving their current audience more of what they crave.

"I'm a little less interested in the intersection of where entertainment and sports combine," Skipper said. That was the central idea of "ESPN Hollywood," which was canceled after a low-rated run.

ESPN Original Entertainment was folded into the company's new content development group, headed by publishing veteran Keith Clinkscales. Ron Semiao, senior vp ESPN Original Entertainment, remains in charge of the entertainment-related activities though there's nothing close to being announced.

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