While 3D filmmaking is still in the early stages in Asia, speakers at a forum held today by Korea’s Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF) agreed that the technology is set to broaden the cinema-going demographic and help the Asian industry bust through tough economic times.

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

San Fu Maltha of Singapore and Jakarta-based Komodo Films observed that the technology also alleviates one of the biggest problems facing the Asian film industry as it has yet to be successfully pirated.

“In Indonesia, we have about ten 3D screens, but they get more admissions than 2D and they cost sometimes up to double the ticket price,” said Maltha. “We saw with My Bloody Valentine – which had already opened in the US and been pirated in Indonesia – that it still made it into the top ten 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 yesterday. The roughly $2.5m film, about prehistoric sea scorpions let loose by a tsunami, is set for release by April 2010.

While the English-language Amphibious is aimed at a younger demographic, both in Indonesia and overseas, Maltha observed that 3D technology could also bring older audiences back to the cinema to see content such as music concerts and nature documentaries.

Meanwhile, Joe Ikeda of Japan’s Asmik Ace Entertainment spoke of his company’s plans to increase theatrical revenues from 3D cinema, which he described as “something special” to lure audiences back into cinemas. Japan’s box office market is the largest in the world outside the US but has been flat for several years.

Asmik Ace recently wrapped principal photography on Japan’s first ever 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 in international sales,” Ikeda said.

Kay Heeyoung Kim from Korean computer graphics house Macrograph noted that 3D films cost roughly 1.5 times as much as 2D films to produce. “However, we saw with Bolt that 3D screenings might account for only 16% of the total but bring in 50% of ticket sales.”

Macrograph, which has artists who formerly worked at ILM and James Cameron’s Digital Domain, is also working on a horror film that will be Korea’s first 3D movie. Details will be announced later during NAFF.

“People talk about the lack of technology but I think at present it’s a lack of access for audiences that is the bigger problem,” said Kim. “If we can get that, 3D is a great medium for genre films and can find a stable niche market.”

Kim added that 3D technology will also be developed for interactive home entertainment – including games, shopping and films through IPTV – but that this will simply increase the audience’s familiarity with the technology and not deter them from going to the cinema to see 3D films.

Held as part of the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan), NAFF is a projects market and seminar programme that focuses exclusively on genre movies.

The event’s focus on genre films with the potential for remake has helped attract of slew of US and European guests for its second edition, including producers Chris Lee (Superman Returns) and Mike Macari (The Ring) and former Fox Atomic exec Zak Kadison who spoke on a KOFIC panel about the US production system.

“Korea has led pop culture in Asia so that’s why we’re here looking for the next remake,” said Lee.

NAFF runs until Thursday (July 23), while PiFan wraps on Sunday (July 26).