Films in 3-D Expand Concert Audiences

Artists as diverse as the Irish rock band U2 and the tween-fan icon Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) are starring in 3-D concert films that seek to broaden the audience for musical performances.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

If you want to see a concert this weekend, you could head to the movies. Two 3-D concert films will be in theaters. One puts you into a concert so popular that the demand for tickets inspired a lawsuit. The other puts you on stage with U2.

Nate DiMeo reports.

NATE D: Producer John Modell says his big three-dimensional international rock and roll spectacle "U2 3D" was originally inspired by that most American spectacle, the pro football game.

His father owned an NFL franchise and he'd seen things up-close that you just can't get at home on TV.

MONTAGNE: When a play would come running down the sideline, 22 300-pound guys, it sounds like a herd of elk and the ground is shaking. I thought, Jesus, if we could bring the average fan right down there, the power of that is just so awesome.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

D: "U2 3D" stitches together several shows from the band's most recent tour into one feature length concert. Modell's company, 3ality Digital, is using new technology to simulate the live experience. Except for a gee-whiz close-up where Bono reaches towards the camera, the 3D in "U2 3D" isn't about bringing things out into the audience. It's about bringing the audience in.

MONTAGNE: You are there, and you're the fifth member of U2 and you're the kid in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has never seen U2 before in their life and is being lifted off their feet for the very first time. And it was a spiritual, intense experience for them.

D: Thousands of American tweens had their own quasi spiritual experience in the past year in places like Providence's Dunkin Donuts Center and Salt Lake City's Energy Solutions Arena.

MONTAGNE: It was amazing.

D: Lindsey Tab was one of the lucky kids who landed tickets to the "Hannah Montana Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds" tour. It was a real live concert performance by both Miley Cyrus, the teen star of the Disney Channel show "Hannah Montana," and by Cyrus in the role of Hannah Montana. It sounds totally confusing. But trust Lindsey Tab, it was totally, totally cool.

MONTAGNE: I've seen her concerts like on TV and just being there was a whole 'nother story. I was like so close and I could see her, like in person.

D: All 69 shows in the tour sold out, typically, within minutes. Parents had a lot of explaining to do if they weren't quick enough on the dial or wealthy enough to afford tickets at the kind of prices scalpers usually reserve for Super Bowls.

Now, Disney is giving those parents another chance to make good with their disappointed preteens with the concert movies.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONCERT, "HANNAH MONTANA & MYLEY CYRUS: BEST OF BOTH WORLDS")

MONTAGNE: What is exciting about 3D, especially for a genre like this, is that you feel like you're actually there. You feel like you can be, you know, in the front row of the audience.

D: Bruce Hendricks directed the film. He says when you combine 3D images with digital surround sound and, in this particular case, a movie theater filled with giddy preteen girls, it's transporting.

Ten-year-old critic Lindsey Tab agrees. She saw a sneak preview and she said her friends who didn't get to see the show live now have the movie.

MONTAGNE: They'll definitely be able to feel like they're at that concert.

D: But they may still get shut out. Disney had decided to take the whole simulating the concert experience thing a step further. The film will only be open for a week and panicked parents are now desperately trying to score a ticket to the movie theater.

John Modell, the producer of the U2 film, says he wishes he could have seen his own rock and roll idols in 3D.

MONTAGNE: I think while it would have been neat to see Jimmy Hendrix burn his guitar at Monterey Pop like this, as if you were standing right in front of him. You can feel the flames coming off of the guitar. That would have been neat for, you know, for my generation to be able to see that.

D: But he predicts that people in say Lindsey Tab's generation will be able to be right there, if only virtually, with Myley Cyrus if she decides to burn her own guitar.

For NPR News, I'm Nate DiMeo.

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