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Blockbuster Project: ‘Top Gun’ Goes 3-D

Legend3D Inc. is converting “Top Gun,” the 1986 blockbuster that put the Navy’s Miramar fighter jet training complex on the map, to a 3-D format for Paramount Pictures for its release in early 2012, according to a published report and several sources.

Calls to Legend3D’s founder, Barry Sandrew, weren’t returned by deadline. A spokeswoman for Carmel Valley-based Legend said the company isn’t commenting on the re-release — which still needs the approval of director Tony Scott — because of non-disclosure agreements it has with Paramount.

A four-minute snippet from the movie featuring a dog fight with Russian Mig jets, and the song “Danger Zone,” was screened in Amsterdam last week at the International Broadcasting Convention, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Legend CEO Rob Hummel, who introduced the clip at the convention, said Legend 3D is funding the conversion project and has a revenue sharing agreement with Paramount, according to the report.

Converting smash 2-D movies from the past into 3-D has been happening with greater frequency this year as studios seek to capitalize on the growing appetite among movie goers to see these classics, as well as to satisfy a demand for 3-D content for television, said one film industry executive.

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Hans Kummar, president of Wild Child Entertainment, which makes IMAX and 3-D movies, said among the mega hits that will be released next year are “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace,” first released in 1999, and “Titanic,” released in 1997. At the end of 2012, director Peter Jackson will bring another movie based on the Tolkien novels called “The Hobbit.”

“You’re going to see a lot more legacy content being re-converted to 3-D,” Kummar said. “It’s a way for the franchise owners to keep these movies fresh for movie goers.”

As to Top Gun’s return, Kummar thinks it’s a smart move by Paramount, one that should result in a profitable run, but nothing close to what the film did in 1986, when it was the top grossing movie with worldwide sales of nearly $354 million.

Good for the Region

Rob Dunson, president of the San Diego Film Commission, which worked with the film makers, was happy to hear about the re-release, which shows the city in a positive light.

“Anytime we can be connected to a positive and long-lasting entertainment as ‘Top Gun,’ it’s a great thing,” Dunson said. “It was a fabulous film when it was first created.”

He ranked Top Gun as the No. 1 movie associated with San Diego County, followed closely by “Some Like It Hot,” which was filmed partly at the Hotel del Coronado.

A business that stands to benefit from Top Gun’s return is Kansas City Barbeque, where a few scenes were shot. The restaurant continues to display a piano shown in the film and photos from the movie.

Martin Blair, who owns the downtown San Diego restaurant with his wife, Cindy, said it was a stroke of luck that landed his eatery in the movie. The crew was filming at Seaport Village and the location director came in and had a beer, and liked the bar’s interior. The movie was originally looking at doing the scene at a Del Mar bar.

“Their loss was our gain, I guess,” Blair said.

While Legend 3D maintained a silence around the pending release of “Top Gun,” the company founded in 2001 was in a rapid growth mode for much of the past two years as it took on a variety of conversion projects from the major studios.

Multimillion-Dollar Upgrades

In an email sent Sept. 14, Sandrew said the business invested “millions of dollars in R&D when preparing for ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon.’ ” The upgrades in the form of a new suite of conversion tools gives Legend 3D a competitive edge in getting more work, Sandrew said.

Other big productions that Legend has worked on include “Alice in Wonderland,” “Conan the Barbarian,” all of the “Shrek” movies, “The Green Lantern,” and “The Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides.”

The 3-D conversion work entails painstaking, detailed changes to images, with some of the more mundane and formulaic work being farmed out to Legend’s satellite production plant in Patna, India, where it now has about 350 workers.

At one point this year, Legend had about 1,000 employees, but it has gone through several layoffs this year that reduced the total workforce to about 650, including some 300 at its local headquarters, according to the company. The firm doesn’t reveal revenue or profits, but Sandrew said earlier this year that its 2010 revenue was 400 percent above what it was in 2009.

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