Producers at Korea’s Naff have highlighted the boost to revenues that local 3D films can bring.

In Asian markets, local 3D projects could soon be just as important as US product in driving the development of the technology. At a forum last month at the Network of Asian Fantastic Films (Naff) in Puchon, Korea, panellists agreed the technology is set to increase theatrical revenue.

“3D screenings might account for only 16% of the total screenings but they bring in 50% of the sales”

Kay Heeyoung Kim, Macrograph

Producers across Asia are starting to develop 3D projects, which, along with the slew of 3D Hollywood movies being released this year, are encouraging exhibitors to ramp up the number of 3D screens -South Korea currently has 47 such screens, Japan around 100 and China more than 200.

Kay Heeyoung Kim of Korean computer-graphics house Macrograph noted increased access for audiences to 3D screens is key: “If we can get that, 3D is a great medium for genre films and can find a stable niche market.” With artists who formerly worked at ILM and James Cameron’s Digital Domain, Macrograph is working on Korea’s first 3D film, Soul Mate, to be directed by Kim Ji-hwan (The Evil Twin).

The $2m horror project was presented at Naff as part of the Korean Film Council’s Film-maker Development Lab and is mentored by The Ring producer Mike Macari.

Kim noted that 3D films cost roughly one-and-a-half times as much as 2D to produce, “However, we saw with Bolt that 3D screenings might account for only 16% of the total [number of screenings] yet bring in 50% of ticket sales,” citing the higher premium and seat occupancy rates.

The technology also alleviates one of the biggest problems facing the Asian film industry -it has yet to be pirated successfully. This could account for China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (Sarft) having encouraged the development of the format.

Sarft last year granted special approval to China Film’s digital subsidiary, China Film Group Digital Film Development, to import 3D films outside of the annual quota of 20 revenue-sharing films.

Films such as Fox International’s Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs and Disney’s Bolt and Up were approved using this measure.

San Fu Maltha, of Singapore and Jakarta-based Komodo Films, observed: “We saw with My Bloody Valentine 3D -which had already opened in the US and been pirated in Indonesia -that it still made it into the top 10 for 3D screens because people wanted the experience of seeing it that way.”

Komodo is partnering with Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) to produce a slate of three 3D movies, the first of which -Brian Yuzna’s Amphibious -started shooting last month. With a budget of roughly $2.5m, the film, about prehistoric sea scorpions let loose by a tsunami, is set for release by April 2010.

Joe Ikeda of Asmik Ace Entertainment said he would use 3D to boost theatrical revenue in Japan, where the box office has been flat for several years despite being the largest in the world outside the US.

Asmik Ace recently wrapped principal photography on Japan’s first live-action 3D film, The Shock Labyrinth, directed by Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge). “We expect it to have potential at local cinemas as well as internationally,” Ikeda said.

The Naff panellists agreed that although 3D technology will also be developed for interactive home entertainment including games, shopping and IPTV films, this will only increase the audience’s familiarity with the technology instead of deterring them from going to cinemas to see 3D films.