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Will Disney Digital 3D help make "Chicken Little" a hit big?

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Will Disney Digital 3D help make "Chicken Little" a hit big?

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What's that cry you hear coming out of the Team Disney Burbank building? Not "The sky is falling." But -- rather -- " 'Chicken Little' 's box office projections need to be lowered."

Where just weeks ago, studio execs were confidently predicting that this Mark Dindal film would earn at least $30 million during its opening weekend ... Now, that number has been pared back by at least a third. With a $20 million opening now being seen as a more realistic target for this new animated feature. While still other folks in-house are suggesting that a number around $15 million might be a more likely opening weekend gross for this picture.

Of course, the real wild card here are those 85 theaters around the country where "Chicken Little" will be shown in Disney Digital 3D. A revolutionary projection process produced in association with Dolby Laboratories and ILM, Mouse House execs are really hoping that word-of-mouth among moviegoers about the 3D version of this picture will help turn these 85 screens into huge money-earners. Thereby adding considerable heft to "Chicken Little" 's box office totals.

"How can a 3D version of this new Disney film that's only being shown on 85 screens have any real impact on 'Chicken Little' 's box office totals?," you ask. Well, let's consider what happened last year with Robert Zemekis' "The Polar Express."

That CG animated feature -- while initially thought to be a disappointment -- eventually went on earn over $281 million worldwide. And among the components that finally pushed this picture into the black was the $45 million dollars that "The Polar Express" earned from being shown in the IMAX 3D format.

Mind you, that $45 million was earned in only 77 venues worldwide. More importantly, the 3D IMAX version of "The Polar Express" proved to have much stronger legs than the traditional version of the picture. EX: The flat version of this Warner Bros. release rolled into the multiplexes back on November 10, 2004 and had pretty much fallen out of theaters by January of 2005. Whereas the 3D IMAX version of "The Polar Express" debuted on the very same date but was still filling seats as late as March of 2005.

It's this exact phenomenon that Mouse House executives are hoping to replicate with the Disney Digital 3D version of "Chicken Little." That small-but-steady trickle of additional revenue that will eventually wind up becoming a significant portion of that film's final box office total. Not to mention extending that movie's theatrical run.

Of course, there's no guaranteeing that the Disney Digital 3D version of "Chicken Little" will actually wind up doing the same sort of business that the 3D IMAX version of "The Polar Express" did. After all, that Robert Zemekis film had a very strong seasonal hook (I.E. Films about Christmas tend to do very good business in November & December). Whereas "Chicken Little" has no seasonal tie ...

Never mind the "Harry Potter" problem. Where the much anticipated movie version of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" goes into wide release on November 18th. Leaving "Chicken Little" only two weeks to make its mark at the multiplexes before this new Warner Bros. release comes along and sucks up all the oxygen.

Or -- for that matter -- the "Narnia" factor. Where -- in little more than five weeks time -- "Chicken Little" will find itself in direct competition with Walt Disney Pictures' next big theatrical release, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Given that the Mouse is determined to turn this big screen version of C.S. Lewis' fantasy novel into the studio's next franchise, WDFA's latest feature may soon find itself shoved out of the spotlight.

Which is why the Disney Digital 3D version of "Chicken Little" has become an all-important part of this film's financial equation. A viable way to extend this animated feature's theatrical run. Thereby making it possible for this picture to eventually earn a respectable box office gross.

Speaking of which: What's the magic number? The domestic box office gross that "Chicken Little" will eventually have to earn in order to not be branded a failure? Based on what I've been hearing from company insiders, this Mark Dindal film has to earn at least as much as Dreamworks' "Shark Tale" did (which pulled in $160 million during its domestic theatrical run last year) in order for Wall Street to remain in Disney's corner.

Should "Chicken Little" NOT equal "Shark Tale" 's domestic box office total window ... The long term ramifications (I.E. Disney's stock price, the company's on-going negotiations with Pixar, Disney Feature Animation's future, etc.) could be disastrous for the corporation.

Sooo ... If you really want to be supportive of the artists who currently work at Disney Feature Animation, you might want to do what I'm planning on doing this coming weekend. Which is see "Chicken Little" twice. Once in a traditional theater, and then again in Disney Digital 3D.

Of course, the main reason that I'm doing this is that I'm looking to do a story about the differences between the two versions of this Randy Fullmer film. Which will run on JHM sometime next week.

But -- at the same time -- it can't exactly hurt "Chicken Little" 's box office totals to have each animation fan buying two tickets to what is basically the same picture.

Okay. I know. That may sound like a really odd thing to do. But speaking on behalf of those of us out there who actually saw both versions of "The Polar Express" last year ... The 3D IMAX version of that Robert Zemekis movie was an entirely different experience. The traditionally projected version of that picture felt stiff and flat. Whereas the 3D IMAX version was magical. That illusion of depth really did add an extra element to the movie-going experience. Which is why I'm already making plans to see the 3D version of "The Polar Express" again when it returns to certain IMAX theaters later this month.

I'm hoping for a similar experience when I see "Chicken Little" this coming weekend. Given that I've already seen about 30 minutes of this Mark Dindal film, I know that it's a cute little comedy that really piles on those pop culture references. Which is why I'm hoping that the Disney Digital 3D version of "Chicken Little" will add a little extra pizzaz to the picture. Thereby making it the sort of movie that teens & pre-teens will pay to see over and over and over ...

Anyway ... If you too would like to see "Chicken Little" in Disney Digital 3D, FromscripttoDVD.com has assembled an up-to-date listing of the 85 locations in the United States. You can access that list by clicking here.

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