Dolby deals push digital in China, India

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NEW DELHI -- Digital releases of Hollywood films will get a boost in Asia via new agreements Dolby Laboratories has inked with Indian digital cinema solutions provider UFO Films and the Shanghai Film Group.

The move will see Dolby's systems -- which comply with the norms of Hollywood studios-backed Digital Cinema Initiative and allow for better print management and protection -- deliver Hollywood films into the world's most populous nations.

"Both SFG and UFO are at the forefront of cinema technology in Asia," Dolby Laboratories vp for cinema John Iles said. "Dolby is excited to provide them with Dolby Digital Cinema products and services, and we look forward to building and continuing our strong relationships to assist them in evolving cinema entertainment throughout China and India."

In China, SFG has agreed to purchase 100 Dolby Digital Cinema Systems to be installed in its Shanghai United Cinema Line. In addition, SFG has installed the Dolby 3D Digital Cinema at its Chengdu Theatre.

India currently has just one DCI compliant theater, in the southern city of Chennai.

"This is the first time Dolby will launch its systems in India," Mumbai-based UFO India CEO Rajesh Mishra said in an interview. "We have demand from multiplexes in urban areas that are markets for English films. The first installations will begin in the months to come. ... We hope to install about 250 systems."

UFO is the world's largest operator of digital systems offering its non-DCI compliant system, which runs on a 1.3K resolution projector versus the DCI-approved 2K resolution. UFO systems serve more than 1,000 screens India-wide. Mishra added that the UFO system costs about $25,000 compared with about $80,000 for the Dolby system.

"For cinemas running both Indian and Hollywood films, the Dolby system is a long-term solution that effectively counters piracy. Over time, with increased volumes we expect the prices to come down," Mishra said. "Also, these systems are already 3D-cinema compatible, which could introduce this concept here."

The Dolby system will compete against Chennai-based Real Image Media Technologies, which offers a DCI-approved system via its subsidiary Qube Cinema, whose clients include the U.S. art house chain Landmark Theatres.

India is one of the world's most under-screened markets. With about 10,000 existing screens, India has about 12 screens per million residents, compared with 117 per million in the U.S. About 17,000 new D-cinema screens are forecast to be in place worldwide by 2010, according to U.K. research agency Screen Digest.
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