'Avatar' previews marred in Germany

DRM software wasn't delivered; some screened in 2D

COLOGNE, Germany -- Several planned preview screenings of James Cameron's "Avatar" were delayed or canceled in Germany after a technical mishap left cinemas without the DRM software necessary to decode the film.

Deluxe Digital, the service company hired by distributor 20th Century Fox to deliver the certificates and digital keys to German exhibitors to allow them to decode and screen the 3D version of "Avatar," apparently failed to do so.

Dozens of preview screenings, planned for Wednesday night, were delayed or canceled. In at least one location, the exhibitor, unable to decrypt the information for the 3D version, had to revert to screening "Avatar" in 2D. "Avatar" is the biggest test of the DRM decoding system in Germany.

Fox declined comment, but several multiplex companies have apologized for the problem. Andreas Crusemann, head of marking and distribution at exhibitor group Cineplex, however, said there were few complaints and that he didn't expect the mishap to affect the film's boxoffice.

All major exhibitors said they had fixed the DRM issue by the time of the official "Avatar" bow in Germany on Thursday.