James Cameron, center left, and Wang Dafang, left, chairman of Tianjin North Film Group, drink a toast at a signing ceremony between Cameron Pace Group and two Chinese partners at  Beijing’s National Museum.

James Cameron, center left, and Wang Dafang, left, chairman of Tianjin North Film Group, toast at a signing ceremony between Cameron Pace Group and two Chinese partners. (Credit: Andy Wong/ Associated Press)

Filmmaker James Cameron and 3-D photography specialist Vince Pace have announced that their Cameron Pace Group, which specializes in providing 3-D technology, services and consulting to other producers, will launch a new joint venture in China.

The deal was announced Wednesday with the state-owned Tianjin North Film Group and Tianjin High-Tech Holding Group. CPG China will be staffed by Chinese workers and overseen by a team that will come in part from the U.S. It will be housed at CPG China’s new studio in Tianjin.

Cameron said this is the first step toward a global expansion for the company, with the hope that 3-D technology will be accepted as the worldwide film standard.

“Our fantasy is that China will set the path and the rest of the world will look and say, ‘They’re going straight into 3-D production,’” the filmmaker said.

China, the world’s fastest-growing movie market, has been quick to embrace 3-D movies. Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar” was the biggest grossing movie of all time in China, with around two-thirds of the total Chinese revenue of $208 million coming from 3-D screenings. The release of Cameron’s “Titanic” in 3-D made as much money in China as it made in every other international market (excluding North America) combined.

Five of China’s top-grossing films in 2011— all of them American-made — were in 3-D. “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon,” for which CPG provided the 3-D technology, was also a hit in the Middle Kingdom. Of the movie’s $350 million in box-office receipts worldwide, $168 million came from China.

“China just seems to get that — the idea that you go to see a 3-D movie because that’s the best,” Cameron said.

“And the market is growing so rapidly here, you’ve got townships where they’ve put in their first-ever theater and it’s a digital 3-D theater,” he said.

The director expressed frustration with American film studios, which are sometimes reluctant to shoot film in true 3-D — instead shooting in standard film format and then converting the images to create the 3-D effect.

“Take a movie like “Spider-Man,’ for example,” Cameron said. “They’ll spend a couple of hundred million dollars on that film but they won’t shoot it in 3-D that has real depth to it. Or they’ll take a $100-million film and they’ll convert it and think they are saving a couple of million dollars, but they come out with an inferior product.”

Cameron and Pace expect that CPG China will work with talent from the U.S., in addition to catering to established Chinese cinematographers and up-and-coming filmmakers.

CPG China will also work with Chinese television producers to create live sports and performance broadcasts as well as regular scripted shows shot in 3-D.

“Our philosophy is everything would be elevated if done correctly in 3-D. We’re looking at a market shift here, a transition,” Pace said.

With Europe set as CPG’s next target for expansion, Cameron predicted that 3-D will one day become the industry standard worldwide, except for filmmakers who, for “artistic reasons,” decide to shoot in old-fashioned 2-D.

“There will be filmmakers, 25 years from now, when the majority of production is in 3-D, saying, ‘I want to shoot with integrity, I’ll shoot it in 2-D,’” Cameron said. “And that’s fine. They’ll just find it harder to get a deal made.”

First appeared in the Los Angeles Times on August 9, 2012.