From the grave to the stage

July 18, 2012: 5:00 AM ET

Coming soon to a theater near you! Your favorite stars! Live and in person! Sort of.

By Richard Nieva, contributor

FORTUNE -- In April a computer-animated projection of rapper Tupac Shakur -- who died 15 years ago -- took the stage at the Coachella music festival in Indio, Calif., performing alongside in-the-flesh rappers Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Now plans for other digital holograms have been announced: so far, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley (both will be developed by L.A.-based Digital DomainĀ (DDMG), the same firm that created Tupac). "Whether we like it or not, Pandora's box has been opened," says Philip Atwell, a music video director who helped bring back the ex-rapper.

Live concerts are increasingly profitable. The world's top 50 touring acts generated a combined $3.07 billion in 2011, and the estates of these "undead" performers stand to earn hundreds of millions if they too tour, says Andy Mayoras, co-author of the book Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! This is, however, expensive technology -- the 4 1/2-minute Tupac performance cost an estimated $400,000; Atwell says it was probably much more than that.

This story is from the July 23, 2012 issue of Fortune.

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