Sir Peter Jackson has stunned a cinema convention in Las Vegas by showing 10 minutes of assorted clips previewing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in an innovative new format.
The footage was shown on Tuesday at CinemaCon at Caesar's Palace in 3D at 48 frames per second, rather than the Hollywood standard 24fps.
The director told the gathering of cinema owners and media in a videotaped message from Wellington that using the higher speed produces a smoother image.
He hoped "as many cinemas as possible" would play the movie at 48fps.
The Associated Press reported that in the previewed scenes, blades of grass, facial lines and soaring mountains all appeared luminous and pronounced.
But Variety reported exhibitors were not all enamoured with the look.
"The Hobbit reel looked distinctively sharper and more immediate than everything before it, giving the 3D smoother movement, while losing the cinematic detachment from the motion blur of the longtime industry-standard 24fps," Variety said.
But one exhibitor said "some of the close-up shots looked like an old soap opera on TV".
Deadline.com website reported that the crisp, high-definition look was wildly different and quite startling to those used to film and 24-frame digital 3D.
It quoted another media member saying though it looked "extraordinary" it would deeply divide moviegoers, especially those who like the grain of film.
Jackson said higher frame rates could make cinema more attractive, especially in 3D, as it is gentler on the eyes.
The Hollywood Reporter said the clarity Jackson described was visible in the presentation, but because the clips were described as "a work in progress", Warners did not screen footage that was fully colour-corrected or had completed visual effects.
Digital cinema equipment manufacturers are at CinemaCon discussing plans to support 48fps exhibition.