U.K. exhibitor inks digital deals

Digital Deployment pacts with Fox, Paramount, Disney

LONDON -- U.K. based Digital Deployment Associates signed long-term deals with 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures International and Walt Disney Studios to roll out digital projectors and technology across Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group, the parties said Sunday.

The deal will see Europe's largest cinema chain and the three distributors share the costs of the rollout.

The digital deal with the trio of studios means more digital screens for the studio's output to exploit. Currently Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group operate 187 digital screens across its circuit, allowing it to offer 3D and alternative content.

The deals will see DDAL convert the rest of its screens, which will unlock the additional benefits of full digitization to both exhibitor and distribution alike.

The total investment being made is over £70 million ($125 million), funded over time by a combination of contributions from studios and exhibitors, as well as the earnings derived from the improved programming offer.

20th Century Fox's Julian Levin said: "With Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group's broad footprint across seven important markets, we anticipate a dramatic increase in digital projection in the years ahead. And with our total commitment to digital releases, the Fox slate, including blockbusters, such as the upcoming 'Avatar,' digital projection will deliver an enhanced 2D and 3D image quality and viewing experience to the ultimate beneficiaries of the transition, the moviegoers."

Paramount Pictures' Roger Pollock said: "This agreement signals yet another important step forward for the future of d-cinema and will also have a major impact on the availability of 3D projection in Europe."

Walt Disney's Anthony Marcoly said: "We feel strongly that this new technology is essential to keeping the film industry vital and competitive. With this major new commitment from Europe’s leading exhibitor, moviegoers will soon have the benefit of seeing and hearing films in new and dynamic ways and be able to experience the latest in 3D technology."

Odeon and UCI CEO Rupert Gavin added: "These deals represent a crucial step forward in delivering full-scale digital cinema in Europe, with all the benefits that this will deliver for the industry and most importantly for our customers. The strength of demand for innovations such as 3D and for alternative content demonstrates the benefits that will result from the digital revolution in Cinema."

Negotiations are ongoing with the remaining Hollywood majors in anticipation of starting the full rollout in 2010, the exhibitor said.