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3-D TV sets starting to attract buyers

Sitting on the couch, wearing 3-D glasses and watching TV at home?

It's coming to a living room near you as television makers rachet up the home-theater experience.

Not without its detractors, the 3-D TV movement is gaining ground in the region, especially among "early adopters" -- those people who wait in line for the newest gadgets. The technology is especially popular among avid video-gamers and people who want to watch 3-D movies at home, according to local TV salespeople.

Although manufacturers are rolling out the TVs, buyers will have to wait for 3-D cable and satellite programming and 3-D DVDs.

Custom TV & Stereo in north Modesto has a 3-D TV demonstration set up and has been selling the sets for a few years.

"It's not a new thing, but more brands are making 3-D TVs," sales manager Chad Schott said. Recent 3-D movies have spurred popularity for similar TVs, he added.

"The 3-D movies are grossing drastically more money than 2-D movies," Schott said. "People will pay a premium price for the 3-D experience."

When Custom TV & Stereo advertised its 3-D TVs recently, a man came in that day and bought a set, Schott said. The customer was wowed by the 3-D for his video games.

Best Buy in northwest Modesto just started demonstrating two 3-D TVs. A sales associate said customers are lined up on weekends to check out the view with 3-D glasses. Sears at Vintage Faire Mall also is selling 3-D TVs.

Brothers Brian Cummings, 23, and Clinton Cummings, 21, see the appeal for 3-D TVs when playing video games but said they don't think the technology will spread to mainstream consumers any time soon.

"I don't think it's going to catch on right now. Three-D movies at theaters -- it's an experience. I don't think we all need or want that at home," Clinton said.

TV companies are focusing 3-D development on larger, high-end television sets -- those 40 inches or larger for the time being -- meaning cost will ring in at about $2,000 at the cheapest.

That means most people buying 3-D TVs this year will be early adopters or have disposable incomes. And there are those people who need to replace an outdated TV, Schott said.

Some balk at the cost or having to wear bulky glasses, but there are other barriers to consider, such as lack of demand and short supply.

"It's one thing to experience 3-D technology while sitting in front of a three-story screen versus one's living room, where it's more of an event, and your everyday living room, where the activity becomes more mundane, making it hard to justify the cost of an immediate upgrade. Besides, since when was 2-D storytelling and filmmaking broken to begin with?" asks an article from Digital Trends, an online digital magazine.

Will people be watching Oprah or the nightly news in 3-D? Probably not, Schott said.

And unlike high-definition technology, there are no 3-D TV channels and hardly any 3-D DVDs available. DirecTV has plans to launch three 3-D channels in June. including one from ESPN, and Blue-Ray will ramp up production of 3-D movies.

The lag time between early adopters and mainstream viewers snatching up 3-D TVs could be much shorter than the delay that occurred when HD broke through a few years ago, Schott said.

"The pricing's already much lower" than HD TVs were, he said.

Despite the cost and other drawbacks, Schott said there is a 3-D TV market in the Modesto area.

"Most people use their TV more than a car and keep them longer than a car," Schott said.

"I'm already getting calls from people hearing about it and they want to know more about how it works, how to hook it up," he said. "It'll be a mainstream product pretty soon."

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.

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