‘The Hobbit’ to play in high frame rate at 450 theaters

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" will be available in a high frame rate format at about 450 theaters in the U.S. and Canada.
(Warner Bros.)

Moviegoers will have to hunt to find next month’s release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” shown with a new controversial high frame rate technology.

With advance tickets set to go on sale Wednesday for the movie, which opens nationwide Dec. 14, major theater chains have begun listing specific locations that will show the film at 48 frames per second, a first-ever upgrade from the conventional 24 frames.

Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for the film’s backer Warner Bros. said the 48 frames version of the movie will screen in only about 450 theaters in the U.S. and Canada (all of which are also 3-D). Event movies like “The Hobbit” typically open in around 4,000 cinemas.

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Fellman added that high frame rate theaters will be located in or near most major and mid-sized cities. The distribution chief added that he does not expect theaters to charge moviegoers an additional ticket price premium for the high frame rate showings on top of 3-D surcharges.

The new cinematic technology -- the format preferred by “Hobbit” director Peter Jackson -- produces a hyper-realistic image that generated largely negative reactions when an early version of footage was shown at the CinemaCon theater convention in Las Vegas in April. Detractors said it looked more like high-definition television than a movie.

Finding “The Hobbit” in the new frames format will be much easier for residents in the Los Angeles area than in other parts of the country. AMC and Regal, the nation’s top two movie theater chains together are showing the 48-frames movie at 19 L.A.-area locations, according to listings on their websites.

Moviegoers will also have the option of seeing “An Unexpected Journey” in 3-D or 2-D on regular and Imax screens.

“450 is a very manageable number [of theaters] for us to make sure the installations are proper and can be checked before the movie plays,” Fellman said. “If the success is what we think it will be, by the second ‘Hobbit’ we’ll be much wider.”

The second of three “Hobbit” movies is scheduled to open in December 2013.


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