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NBA to Offer 'All-Star Saturday Night' in 3D HD

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The National Basketball Association, which was the first major U.S. sports league to experiment with stereoscopic 3D high-definition production and display technology, announced that it will broadcast TNT’s coverage of the 2009 NBA All-Star Saturday Night special-events competition in Phoenix, Ariz. on Feb. 14 in live 3D HD to 80 digitally-equipped theaters across the United States.

The NBA and Turner Sports are teaming with 3D projection firm Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp to present the 3D HD broadcast, which will be shown on up to 160 screens in Carmike Cinemas, Celebration Cinemas, Cinema West, Emagine, Galaxy Theatres, Marquee Cinemas, MJR, NCG, Rave Motion Pictures, Showcase and UltraStar Cinema locations in 35 states across the country. The All-Star Saturday Night broadcast, which airs at 8 pm EST on TNT, includes sponsored skills competitions such as the Sprite Slam-Dunk contest and Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout. Last year’s broadcast was the most watched in the event’s 23 year history, according to the NBA, and enjoyed increases in household ratings and significant growth in key demographics.

“Turner Sports is excited to work with Cinedigm to extend our brand, as well as that of NBA All-Star Weekend, into a new arena through this creative and innovative viewing opportunity.” said David Levy, President of Turner Broadcasting Sales, Inc. and Turner Sports, in a statement. “We are proud to once again be on the cutting edge in providing NBA fans with a truly unique and comprehensive 3D viewing experience during NBA All-Star Weekend. This partnership demonstrates that Turner continues to provide new and innovative concepts for NBA fans to enhance the viewing experience.”

The NBA announcement is the third big 3D HD development in recent weeks. Last Thursday, the NFL staged a live 3D HD broadcast of a game between the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders to 3D-equipped theaters in New York, Los Angeles and Boston. And earlier last week, Fox Sports Chairman David Hill announced that Fox plans to broadcast the college football BCS Championship Game on Jan. 8 to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and to an undetermined number of 3D-equipped theaters across the country.

The NBA has been keeping a close eye on the potential of 3D HD. The league did it first did a 3D HD production for the 2007 All-Star Game in Las Vegas, which it broadcast to a VIP audience there, and has since helped the Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks stage their own live demonstrations of the technology. NBA executives Steve Hellmuth, EVP of Operations and Technology, and Mike Rokosa, VP of engineering, were in attendance at the NFL’s broadcast in New York last week to gauge the state of the technology. They said it performed pretty well, despite some technical glitches with the satellite feed.

Cinema tickets will go on sale today for some of the Cinedigm-equipped theaters. They will sell for between $18 and $22 each, says a Cinedigm spokesperson.