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 Domain (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.

  • One cool table setting

    FORTUNE -- If you think today's 3-D technology in movies and TV shows is cool, wait until you see your first hologram table. Funded by DARPA, the Defense Department's research arm, for battle planning, the Urban Photonic Sandtable Display produces a 360°, 3-D image (no glasses needed). Zebra Imaging, the company that is developing the technology, says it'll take at least another three years before this table is set for MORE

    - Oct 18, 2011 5:00 AM ET
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