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Break Out Those 3D Glasses

Beowulf, director Robert Zemeckis' special-effects-laden retelling of the Old English epic poem, may be the film that finally ushers in the mass market 3D era. On Nov. 16, Paramount is expected to release the film, which cost about $150 million to make, on 2,800 screens, according to box-office analyst Media By Numbers. Of those, about 750 should show the 3D version. The computer-generated images are so impressive that several movie theaters even moved up their scheduled installation of 3D projectors to show the film, which stars Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, and John Malkovich, among others. Several other big-budget 3D films are rushing to production, including two next year, James Cameron's Avatar for Fox and DreamWorks' Monsters vs. Aliens.

As some TV writers man the picket lines to fight for their digital rights, others are busy with online shows they hope might get airtime. Marshall Herskovitz, who wrote for Thirtysomething, created the 36-episode series Quarterlife, now on MySpaceTV and There's already talk that NBC (GE) might want it for next season. Herskovitz wouldn't comment but did emphasize that in that case he "would talk to the [Writers] Guild before writing more episodes."

The new Big Ten Network may be set to rough up the cable giants. BTN, which is carried by DirecTV and smaller cable providers, offers sports events from the 11 universities that make up the Big Ten Conference. Neither Comcast (CMCSA) nor Time Warner (TWX) chose to carry the channel. They say their third-quarter subscriber losses (in the tens of thousands) aren't focused in Big Ten territory. But Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield figures "the pain is set to reach a whole new level" during the college basketball season, when folks stay indoors more often. And BTN, owned by the universities and Fox, is running ads asking fans to switch to satellite.

Ratatouille, the tale of a French rat who takes over the kitchen at a Parisian restaurant, was a good-size hit for Walt Disney in the U.S. this summer. The Pixar-produced film had box-office revenues of $206 million. But that was still the lowest of any Pixar production since A Bug's Life in 1998. So what did Disney do? Studio chief Dick Cook took the movie to Paris, and beyond, in a big way. An imaginative, all-out push has helped Ratatouille reach $400 million in foreign box-office sales, making it the third most successful animated Disney film (after The Lion King and Finding Nemo).

Faced with a crowded summer schedule of big-name sequels, Disney decided to delay the release in several European markets until October, says Mark Zoradi, president of Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group. Then it held a star-studded black-tie premiere in Paris that included guest appearances by the city's most famous chefs. Ratatouille was the top-rated film in France for six consecutive weekends this fall.

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