"That's why you didn't see 'Cinderella' or 'Snow White' in 3-D. I could call up [directors] Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers and some of the colorists on the film and sit together and talk before we even started," Hahn said. "So it's not just a business decision [to do it in 3-D]. … To be able to see this in digital cinema and see it in 3-D — there is no downside to it as long as the original filmmakers are involved."
All of the major titles undergoing conversions have their artistic godfathers aboard: George Lucas has spent several years overseeing 3-D versions of his "Star Wars" titles, the first of which, "Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace," is to hit theaters in February, with the subsequent five films in the series coming out in 3-D at a rate of one a year. Director Tony Scott is working on "Top Gun 3D."
Due to software improvements, 3-D conversions are becoming less expensive. Twelve months ago, the conversion of a two-hour film cost about $100,000 ar minute; now it's closer to $25,000 a minute, according to Rob Hummel, president of Legend 3D, the company converting "Top Gun." At a certain price point, it may prove difficult for Hollywood to resist reaching even further into its catalog.
But not everyone is thrilled by the prospect of old films returning to multiplexes with new trimmings.
Converting a film to 3-D "undercuts the quality of the film and the verisimilitude of the film," said Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan professor of film studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "It's to re-direct it and destroy it. This is a poor idea artistically and a poor idea financially."
Times staff writer Susan King contributed to this report.