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James Cameron starts 'Avatar' hype machine early

July 15, 2009 |  6:51 pm

The King of the World isn't leaving anything to chance.

Six months before "Avatar" hits theaters, director James Cameron and 20th Century Fox are holding a full-court press with the nation's leading exhibitors at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood tomorrow to tout his upcoming release.

CAMERON "Avatar," a blend of live action and CGI animation, is Cameron's first dramatic feature since 1997's "Titantic" and has generated a frenzy of interest. During the five-hour meeting (he has never been one for short presentations), Cameron will show 20 minutes of scenes from the film and answer questions about the making and marketing of the movie.

Cameron and Fox hosted a similar event recently in Amsterdam at Cinema Expo and are expected to also show excerpts from the movie at the Comic-Con trade show this month in San Diego.

Fox has plenty of incentive to court exhibitors. The movie, which stars Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver, is a big gamble for the studio. With a budget of nearly $240 million, "Avatar" is one of the most expensive and anticipated films ever made.

It's also the most high profile 3-D movie to date. Although 3-D films are enjoying a resurgence in Hollywood, the small number of theaters with 3-D screens has limited the returns. The rollout has been delayed by the credit crunch. Only about 2,500 screens in the U.S. are 3-D ready, about half what many studio executives had anticipated.

Cameron himself has urged exhibitors to add more 3-D screens, although he has predicted the movie would do well in any format.

"The main purpose of the event is to expose exhibitors to what 'Avatar' the movie is about,'' said Jon Landau, who is producing the movie with Cameron. "Certainly, our goal is to have as many 3-D screens out there as possible.... We would like every exhibitor who is on the fence to stand on the side of 'yes, let's convert.' Not so much for 'Avatar' but for the whole industry."

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: James Cameron. Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

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