India sees red over 3D glasses

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While Avatar has raked in millions across the Indian continent (starting with a $4.68 million opening weekend), rage continued to grow at the box office over the quality of 3D glasses used in city multiplexes. The criticisms ranged from glasses slipping off the noses of viewers to fingerprints on the lenses.

Software developer Sameer Gharat complained to the Mumbai Mirror newspaper, "The 3D glasses offered to me ruined my movie-watching experience, to say the least. They were uncomfortable to wear, as they only had a one-size-fits-all. Also, I was required to take off my own spectacles to wear the 3D glasses as they wouldn't sit atop my own. Being a bit big in size, they would sit very low on the nose. Also, you generally tend to focus on the middle part of the screen. But if you look to the corner of the screen, your line of vision strays out of the frame, ruining the 3D experience." Mirror interview responses from other Avatar viewers were similar.

Distributor Fox, through a source that did not wish to be named, said, "Our responsibility is restricted to delivering a clean finished product, which is what Avatar is. The 3D glasses and 3D projector are something that the exhibitors hire. It is their responsibility and they should take care to maintain them. Glasses need to be cleaned. Defective glasses need to be replaced. If these precautions are not taken, you have the odd complaint.”

Yes, all true enough, but the distributor could have cushioned their statement a bit to help out the exhibitor.

This may all change soon, as companies rush to market with designer 3D glasses. At CineAsia in Hong Kong, I spoke with more than one person working with companies designing and having made (in China) 3D glasses for sale to multiplex circuits in mid-2010.

BIG Cinemas Serves Up ‘Movie Munchies’
Thanks to the BIG Cinema folks in Mumbai for introducing me to "Movie Munchies," their menu of concession and VIP lounge foods developed by their internationally acclaimed chef, Arindam Chakravarti. And yes, you read correctly, this theatre circuit owned by India’s Reliance MediaWorks, Ltd. has its own chef who develops foods for its theatres.

The fried finger foods, salads and sandwiches, fresh veggie rolls and wraps, coffee and pizza have been deployed throughout the BIG Cinema theatres across India, and in early 2010 they’re coming to their locations in Malaysia, Netherlands and the USA.

Don’t assume that it all tastes like Indian food. Chakravarti, who has worked and studied in France, Greece, the USA and other countries, has a totally international palate.

Yes, there are some Indian favorites, but their (chicken meat) hot dog (with caramelized onions and homemade special mustard, it beats any New York hot dog I've ever eaten) and their popcorn with 12 toppings (something for everyone, but Mumbai traffic kept me from trying them) and fresh fruit drinks can be appreciated by all.

"Once we know which products the public favors, we may roll out the entire range of products into a variety of other venues including retail outlets,” Chakravarti says.

In other Reliance news, the company just acquired ilab U.K. Ltd, a leading film-processing facility operating in London. Reliance already operates the former Adlabs in Mumbai, India’s leading post-production facility. This expands Reliance MediaWorks’ reach in Europe to the BIG Cinemas circuit in the Netherlands and ilab in the U.K.

3 Idiots Has a Smart Opening
Director Rajkumar Hirani's 3 Idiots, starring Aamir Khan, had the largest opening weekend (Dec. 25-27) in Bollywood history, taking in over US$20 million worldwide. The movie was produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and is distributed by Reliance BIG Entertainment, a sister company of Reliance MediaWorks. 3 Idiots even beat out Fox's release of James Cameron's Avatar, which was in its second week in Indian theatres.

Thailand Is Tops for Film Shoots
P3 magazine will announce in February 2010 that Thailand is one of the top three Asian destinations for international film and TV shoots.

"We've known for a while we were a top location destination," said Wanasiri Morakul, director of the Thailand Film Office. "But we were a bit surprised to find, after attending the Pusan [Korea] and Tokyo International Film Festivals in October 2009, the number of filmmakers visiting our booth with an interest in post-production and other production services. Especially of interest were filmmakers from China, Malaysia and Japan who expressed an interest in filming in Thailand during 2010-2011, with anticipated revenue at around US$500,000."

And for the record, in 2009 Thailand had 452 foreign productions film on shore, bringing in over US$24 million. India and Japan lead the pack of filmmakers shooting in Thailand.

Tokyo's Kabukicho Cinemas Fade
The Mainichi Daily News reported that the Shinjuku Odeon-za—which first opened nearly 60 years ago—and two other cinemas closed down at the end of November 2009. Such old theatres that once drew crowds of filmgoers to the silver-screen district of Tokyo's Kabukicho are starting to disappear as newer cinema complexes lure away customers.

The three theatres that shuttered ahead of the New Year's film-going season were operated by Toa Kogyo Co. The Odeon-za had operated since 1951, screening mostly foreign films distributed by Toho Co., but was unable to hold up under adverse business conditions.

"The building was getting old and cinema complexes were taking away our customers, and we were unable to make a profit," the theater's deputy manager, Shuichi Ochiai, explained.

In 2007, the Shinjuku Wald 9 complex opened in Shinjuku's Sanchome district, right next to Kabukicho, followed by the Shinjuku Piccadilly complex in 2008, channeling the flow of filmgoers away from Kabukicho. Ochiai said audience figures at the Odeon-za fell to about half the peak number during their roughest periods.

Kabukicho emerged as an entertainment district following the devastation of World War II. In 1947, the Shinjuku Chikyu-za theatre (the predecessor of the Shinjuku Joy Cinema) opened, followed by the Shinjuku-Milano-za in 1956 and the Shinjuku Plaza Gekijo in 1969, providing seating for more than 1,000 people.

Steven Spielberg’s E.T. was screened at the Shinjuku-Milano-za between December 1982 and May 1983, attracting a total of 526,588 people to the theatre and bringing in over 700 million yen (US$7.5 million), a world record.

Contact Asia-Pacific bureau chief Scott Rosenberg with your news items at (662) 982-4525, by fax at (662) 982-4526, or by e-mail at scott.rosenberg@gmail.com.