Filmmakers James Cameron, left, and George Lucas attend a digital filmmakers… (Ethan Miller / Getty Images )
Even in the distant future in a galaxy far, far away, there will still be movie theaters.
"Star Wars" filmmaker George Lucas, a pioneer in digital technology, offered an impassioned show of support for a century-old institution: the movie theater.
"What you bring to the table is a great venue," Lucas told an enthusiastic group of theater owners Wednesday in Las Vegas. "Movie theaters represent a social art form you can't get on an iPhone and you can't get on the TV.... Man is a social animal — we want to enjoy things together. And that's what a theater is."
Lucas' comments drew loud applause from the crowd gathered at the industry's annual convention, CinemaCon. Theater operators have been grappling with a sharp falloff in attendance and ticket sales this year, fueling debate about long-term challenges facing theaters, including rising competition from entertainment in the home.
Speaking at a panel on the future of cinema, Lucas said theaters had bright prospects even as they face more competition from alternative forms of entertainment, such as video games and video on demand.
"Movie theaters, will never, ever go away," he said.
That sentiment was also expressed by fellow Hollywood heavyweights "Avatar" director James Cameron and DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, who were also on the panel.
All three filmmakers called on theaters to do more to woo customers, improve customer service and offer more alternative content, such as live sporting events and concerts. They also suggested offering theatergoers dinner along with a movie.
"Bring together seeing a movie and getting a meal," Katzenberg said. "I think it's the next blockbuster."
The filmmakers predicted that 3-D filmmaking would continue to stimulate growth in the business, saying the technology was still in its infancy. "I totally believe that 3-D will eventually take over, just like color did," Lucas said.
Lucas and Cameron plan to release 3-D versions of their films "Star Wars Episode I: the Phantom Menace" and "Titanic."
But they also cautioned that Hollywood risks going overboard by rushing to convert too many movies to a 3-D format. This year alone the release of nearly 40 3-D films is expected. .
"I'm concerned about anything that erodes the market," Cameron said. "Bad 3-D is one of them."