D-cinema closer to close-up

DCIP inking deals with studios

DCIP is getting close to making the leap from the drawing board to the marketplace.

Digital Cinemas Implementation Partners is a joint venture of the nation's three biggest movie theater circuits -- Regal, AMC and Cinemark -- that has been negotiating with Hollywood studios to secure financial assistance in rolling out digital-projection systems for 14,000 or more movie screens nationwide. Fox was the first to ink such an agreement, while Disney and Paramount are believed to have done so more recently and Universal has entered final negotiations.

Sony and Warner Bros. appear less advanced in discussions with DCIP. The negotiations involved so-called "virtual print fee" agreements, which would provide a majority of the $100,000-per-system in installations costs for the digital rollout.

Under VPFs, studios pay exhibitors the rough equivalent of film print costs for several years. Eventually, the studio costs would go away and Hollywood majors would enjoy significant costs cuts inherent in digital distribution.

Separately, DCIP has been negotiating with investment bank JPMorgan for assistance in financing the balance of the installation costs for the massive rollout of digital hardware.