Digital film buzz at Cinema Expo

Fox, UPI sign deals with AAM distrib'n services

AMSTERDAM -- The opening of this year's Cinema Expo confab should be abuzz thanks to a pair of deals that 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures International have inked with Arts Alliance Media, Europe's leading provider of digital film distribution services.

The two studio releasing arms have signed nonexclusive, long-term Virtual Print Fee agreements with AAM for digital cinema deployment across Europe. The deals, in which the distributors will pay every time a film is shown digitally, encompass nearly 7,000 screens during the next few years.

The pacts will see Fox and Universal commit to distributing movies digitally to AAM DCI-compliant digital-cinema projection systems throughout Europe.

Territories covered by the agreements are the U.K. and Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, the Nordic region and Benelux.

AAM said last weekMonday that it "is also engaged in active negotiations with other studios including Buena Vista International and Paramount Pictures International" for the system.

"This arrangement represents the very first significant plan to finance and roll out DCI-compliant digital projection systems across Europe," said Julian Levin, 20th Century Fox executive vp digital exhibition and nontheatrical sales and distribution. "Fox remains committed to the transition to a digital cinema platform and looks forward to supplying its movies to digital projection systems installed by Arts Alliance Media."

Said Universal Pictures International exec vp Duncan Clark, "Arts Alliance's strategic move into this all-important arena is warmly welcomed and supported by Universal Pictures. The digital world is the future, and we as a studio are committed to its continual and sustained growth."

Added AAM CEO Howard Kiedaisch, "These milestone agreements finally offer European exhibitors a viable commercial model to adapt their screens to digital cinema and put together a sustainable rollout strategy. The support of Fox and Universal is a strong endorsement of AAM and our ability to handle the complexities of a pan-European deployment."

Cinema Expo International, which is produced by the Nielsen Film Group, a division of Nielsen Business Media, parent company of The Hollywood Reporter, runs through June 28 at the Amsterdam RAI.