Tag Archives: Beowulf

IMAX Gives AMC 100 Digital 3D Projectors For Free

Imax logo Imax and AMC really, really REALLY like each other in a digital-3D-biggest-deal-EVER kind of way. Yes, it is big. In fact, the news is so big that nobody at Imax has recovered from its impact sufficiently to post a press release on its corporate page yet. But there is plenty of coverage on the trades, regular press and blogs.

The Canadian large format (LF) film specialist is not exaggerating when it calls this deal the most important in the company’s history. This will see 100 new digital screens opening across 33 markets in the US over three years, thus doubling the number of Imax screens in the US. Varity has some of the details:

Pact between Imax and AMC Entertainment was announced late Thursday afternoon. Additional screens will be a major boost for the advancement of modern-day 3-D, since the digital Imax screens will be capable of exhibiting 3-D movies, in addition to 2-D titles.

New Imax digital projection systems will be installed in many of AMC’s top-performing theaters, including the Empire in New York City and 12 locations in the Los Angeles area, including Century City.

And:

Rollout of the first 50 screens will begin in July 2008. An additional 25 will be installed in 2009 and the remaining 25 in 2010.

But it is the more mainstream New York Times that has a better take on the financial specifics that underpin the deal:

In gearing up more theaters, Imax and AMC are chasing different goals. AMC, which is based in Kansas City, Mo., is trying to battle an industrywide slump in attendance while squeezing out more revenue from existing auditoriums. Because Imax tickets cost an extra $2 to $4, the conversion should increase revenue in the converted auditoriums by one third, according to Peter C. Brown, the chief executive of AMC.

For Imax, the joint venture carries extra weight. The company, with headquarters in New York and Toronto, has struggled to expand into mainstream movie theaters from its roots in science and history museums. Although it has persuaded some movie studios to release Imax versions of their regular films, Imax has recently suffered loses associated with regulatory inquiries into its accounting methods.

The Newspaper of Record also reveals that this is not a cheap or profitable deal for Imax:

Imax will shoulder the expense of the projectors, which cost about $500,000 each. AMC, one of the world’s largest movie theater chains, will pay to retrofit auditoriums in top-performing movie complexes in 33 cities, reconfiguring the seats and enlarging the screens.

Free projectors!! So AMC is effectively getting massively subsidized as Imax’s first digital 3D customer. What with AMC’s previous deal with Sony for 54 4K digital cinema projectors (free too?), it seems that one of the three NCM and DCIP partners believes in financial salvation through technology. The recent release of ‘Beowulf’ proved, if anything, that the greatest profits are to be made from Imax 3D, rather than the RealD‘s digital 3D (read ‘Why Beowulf spells bad news for digital 3D business‘), despite the RealD screens vastly outnumbering the Imax 3D ones.

Will this deal be enough for Imax to find financial salvation? The Motley Fool isn’t convinced (‘Why Can’t IMAX Fade to Black?‘):

If you think that the screens are big at IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX), just wait until you see the deficits.

OK, so that’s not much of a selling point. Then again, when your third-quarter loss from continuing operations widens to $0.19 a share from $0.12 a share, you may as well dig into that popcorn tub as you take in the grandiose.

Like your sums in smaller steps? Feel free to bemoan the 4% drop in revenue to $29.8 million.

The website acknowledges that a steadier stream of Hollywood titles makes things sweeter – and this deal should be plenty of cake underneath the icing – but thinks that the best future for Imax would still be a buyout.

What nobody is questioning is whether Imax’s LF digital 3D technology actually works. I’m sure that AMC did not buy into this technology ‘sight unseen’, but pulling off a demo is not the same as making the technology work four shows/365 days a year. Particularly if it is based on LCoS/SXRD rather than the more stable DLP technology. Particularly for digital 3D, which is more complicated than even many industry people realize.

Some bloggers just hate the whole idea behind this. ‘Hollywood Needs Gimmicks to Get You into Theaters – Is IMAX or 3-D the future of cinema? How about better movies instead?’ But ultimately the ticket buying public will decide whether this move will pay off. The indication from “Beowulf” suggests that it might. Perhaps even in a big way. Just don’t expect Imax to keep giving away projectors for free to all exhibitors.

Q: Which 3D technology is best? A: Dolby’s!

All stereoscopic cinema technologies are not created equal, or rather, the presentations are not identical. But it is not just, say, the size difference between, say Imax and a RealD presentation that is noticeable, but even differences between different types of digital 3D presentations stand out (if you pardon the pun). cNet’s Stephen Shankland (NB: NOT the man in the picture above – that’s scary looking CrunchGear Guy sporting Dolby 3D specs) sat through three of the four different types of 3D cinema solutions available commercially today (NuVision/XpanD‘s active glasses screenings appear not to have been available to him in the US).

It turns out that it was not so much an apples, apples and oranges as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and clementines type of experience. It is worth reading the whole article (Who shows the best view of 3D ‘Beowulf’?) for many interesting insights. For those who want to cut to the chase (and missed the headline of this item), the winner was the newest kid on the stereoscopic technology block:

Based on watching the movie start to finish three times, the 3D winner is Dolby 3D–and not just by a nose.

Dolby’s technology gave a sharp image that showed every beard bristle, the colors were relatively rich, flicker from moving objects was nonexistent, but most significantly, the sense of depth was strong. Even the subtle differences between a character’s facial features were perceptible, and group shots with a host of characters showed as true depth, not as a number of gradually more distant two-dimensional layers. I was truly impressed.

Now there are several things t be said about this comparison. The first is that it was a ‘comparison’ and not a ‘test’, let alone a ‘shoot out’. I cannot voucher for Mr Shankland’s vision, but chances are that he is not what Hollywood considers a pair of ‘Golden Eyes’. He is a knowledgeable and perceptive writer. So while I don’t doubt his judgment – and not having seen ‘Beowulf’ in ANY 3D form I’m in even less of a position to comment – it is important to remember that this was not a controlled experiment but an assessment of the average viewer’s experience.

As such, it is in some ways more important than a test in the old Pacific Theater that was the ETC’s Digital Cinema Lab. The writer says as much himself, so with all these caveats in mind it is interesting to dig deeper into his findings. The first is that artistic interventions have obviously been made in calibrating the 3D experience, particularly between Imax and digital 3D. This is an area that is just beginning to be understood and discussed Disney’s Howard Lukk has given several excellent presentations on this, talking about the ‘plane’ of the stereoscopic image.

Imax is ‘in your face’, whereas RealD is more the type of 3D that has been described as ‘surround sound for your eyes’, ‘box’ or ‘Doll House’ type of stereoscopics. Yet Dolby appears to have won out on the strength of the three ‘C’s (coherence, colour, clarity). This is surprising to industry observers, as the colour separation that underpins the Dolby (it was licensed from Germany’s Infitec) was long thought to cause it problems with accurate colour separation. Now the talk is instead that the struggle is to make the glasses that employ 16 or more layers of colour-separating film, cheap enough to manufacture in volume to compete with the disposable RealD circular polarized glasses.

Ultimately ‘Beowulf’ is not the best films to judge the merits of all three technologies (or even four or five, if you add active glasses and the Korean system under development) because it is CG-animation and mostly takes places in dark and dim caves, so the light-loss that all 3D systems suffer is masked. But this article is not just the first but a very, very good comparison that will hopefully stimulate more discussion and research around the subject.

When d-cinema leaves audinces in the dark

black screen You are not a frequent film goer if you have not sat through at least one instance of a 35mm reel breaking and the projectionist (or the kid who sold you the popcorn) taking forever to fix it. I once waited 45 minutes to get to see the last underwhelming five minutes of ‘Mission to Mars‘. Boy was that not worth the wait.

Thanks to the miracle of digital cinema, there is now a 21st century version of this annoyance, except now the film won’t even start and the chances are slim-to-none that even the most competent projectionist will be ever to sort it out, as several audiences in Australia recently found out. This from AdelaidNow:

PREMIERE Australian screenings of much-hyped 3D spectacular Beowulf descended into farce on Monday night when the digital projection technology failed simultaneously in Adelaide and Perth.

That follows a similar incident in Sydney last week. Cinemagoers at all three venues were unable to watch the 3D blockbuster after security access keys, provided by the distributor as an anti-piracy measure, failed to work.

Roadshow Films said they were confident the problem had been solved and would not affect audiences when the film is released tomorrow.

Ouch! Whoever was responsible for the Australia distribution of Warner Bros’ Beowulf (Paramount handled it in the US) will have been in deep trouble as a result of screwing up the KDM decryption keys. (Based on previous studio-lab digital relations I’m guessing Technicolor, but I could be wrong). Re-funding the audience is never cheap or popular, either with the cinemas, distributors or even audiences themselves:

Valley View resident Damian Woodards said he was disappointed. “We were all looking forward to the latest 3D technology that’s supposed to be getting more people along to the cinemas,” he said.

Roadshow Films general manager Joel Pearlman said he believed the glitch had been ironed out. “This was incredibly unfortunate and disappointing, but these are all issues to do with the security key which have been addressed,” he said.

Yes, but only until the next screw up. Even with 99.99% accurate KDM creation and matching, that will still leave hundreds of dark screenings every year. And it just doesn’t look as interesting as 35mm film getting stuck in the projection gate and melting. It’s just black and absolutely nothing happens. Call it the Black Screen of death for digital cinema.

Beowulf Spells Bad News For Digital 3D Business

‘Beowulf’, the first ‘grown-up’ digital 3D release, is out and while it conquered the box office and heaps were praised on the 3D animation, the underlying numbers spell bad news for digital 3D.

There’s been an avalanche of press releases, news, announcements and comment pieces on the digital 3D aspects of ‘Beowulf’ in the run up to the films US and international release. Everything from the number of Russian screens showing it in digital and digital 3D (24, in case you can’t be bothered to click on the link) to how many countries will be showing it using the Dolby system (12) – though at 75 screens in total it is less than the 86 screens in the US that Dolby screened the first digital 3D films on two years ago, then using the RealD system. One of the best overviews is provided by the always-worth-reading Carolyn Giardina in The Hollywood Reporter (‘Beowulf’s’ bow takes 3-D to the next level). There we learn amongst other things that:

Real D was the first 3-D system out of the gate and represents the lion’s share of current installations. At press time, it was expected that there would be about 620 Real D-equipped auditoriums showing “Beowulf” in 3-D this weekend. Real D’s technique requires the use of a “silver screen” and “circular polarized” glasses. It enables 3-D on screens maxing out around 47 feet high. For any system, screen size comes down to how much light can get to the screen from the projector.

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RealD puts digital 3D on really big screens

There is only one place you won’t be able to watch ‘Beowulf‘ in 3D this weekend and that is at a really big conventional cinema screens. That is because stereoscopic cinema technology is ‘light eater’, which means that if you want to watch it on something larger than a 45-foot screen you have to watch the Imax version, or else the film will be as dark as Grendel’s mother’s lair at midnight without a torch. This presents an obvious problem to exhibitor who want to showcase ‘Beowulf’ and other future digital 3D films on their flagship screen.

Now digital 3D technology front runner RealD claims to have overcome this problem. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Real D CEO Michael Lewis said the challenge of light has until now resulted in missed opportunities, noting that the problem was keeping 3-D from being a viable option in about 15%-20% of domestic screens — those being the largest.

Added Greer, “Now we get demands from our exhibitors saying that they want to be in the biggest house, and we have to say no because we want to make sure there is enough light on the screen.”

Today, projection of 3-D imagery on larger screens typically is accomplished with two d-cinema projectors stacked one on top of the other and used simultaneously. But acquiring and maintaining two d-cinema projectors for a single auditorium is not practical for exhibitors.

Real D expects to have the modified 3-D systems for larger theaters and incorporating this new technology available in 2008.

According to RealD this new technology should allow it to light up screens as large as 70 feet. However, they do not go into how many footlamberts they would be able to throw on such a screen, which is likely to be far short of the specified 14 fLs. It would be an interesting shoot-out between the competing digital 3D technologies (RealD, Dolby 3D and active glasses from the likes of NuVision) to see which one eats the most light.

Kinepolis logo Someone who has opted for Dolby over RealD is Belgian and pan-European exhibitor Kinepolis, who has just revealed its digital 3D plans for ‘Beowulf’ and early 2008 ‘Fly Me To The Moon‘. From the press release:

So far, 17 Kinepolis complexes have equipped one auditorium each with a Dolby® 3D Digital Cinema system: all the Kinepolis complexes in Belgium (10) and in France (6) and the Spanish megaplex Kinepolis Madrid. Beowulf 3D is scheduled to be released this month. The Belgium world premiere of Fly me to the Moon in 3D is scheduled for January 2008.

So Dolby is catching up with RealD for European digital 3D footprint.

Cinemark logo Someone who is heading their bets with regards to digital 3D at the moment is US exhibitor Cinemark, one of the three DCIP partners, who revealed the following about their digital cinema and digital 3D in their Q3 2007 conference call transcript (provided courtesy of Seeking Alpha):

We are excited about the prospects that digital cinema offers and we are actively testing and preparing so that our deployment and implementation of digital cinema is optimized and as smooth as possible from a technological and operational perspective once the DCIP agreements are finalized.

We are also optimistic about the long-term prospects of 3D, a key opportunity of digital.

We are currently using our fully digital theater in Chicago, as well as other local theaters to test multiple 3D technologies that are available. As previously discussed, we have a very deliberate digital rollout strategy, as we believe we will get the most benefit by making sure the negotiations are complete and the technology is established prior to our implementation.

Since digital is a prerequisite to 3D, our 3D rollout will follow our digital rollout strategy. We currently have 39 3D screens. We intend to begin installations in 2008 with our entire circuit converted in approximately three to four years.

In other (minor) digital 3D news, dead-but-still-moving digital cinema vendor company QuVis announces 3D JPEG2000 and QPE support for their server to the exhibition industries complete indifference.

IMAX vs. RealD Beowulf 3D smackdown at Regal

An epic battle is brewing at Regal Cinemas this month, with ‘Beowulf‘ going up against itself in on both IMAX analogue 3D and RealD‘s digital 3D systems. According to the Regal press release there is even two different names for the movie experience, depending on which one you opt for Beowulf: An IMAX 3D Experience and Beowulf in DIGITAL 3D:

The movie is being offered in IMAX 3D and DIGITAL 3D in a total of 123 Regal Entertainment Group theatres across the country. The new Paramount Pictures release of Beowulf will be available in conventional 35mm format, digital projection, DIGITAL 3D and IMAX 3D. Regal Entertainment Group will host advance screenings of the film beginning at 9:15pm on Thursday, November 15.Beowulf 3D is a terrific and entertaining experience. We are certain moviegoers will enjoy the unique 3D presentation.

“Regal Entertainment Group is proud to offer Beowulf in this exciting 3D format. In numerous cities across the country Regal is pleased to be programming IMAX 3D and DIGITAL 3D versions of the epic tale,” stated Dick Westerling, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Advertising for Regal Entertainment Group. “Beowulf 3D is a terrific and entertaining experience. We are certain moviegoers will enjoy the unique 3D presentation.”

So with Beowulf being shown 35mm analogue print, standard 2-D digital cinema, RealD digital 3D and Imax digital 3D, this must be the most formats that a film has ever been released in simultaneously by one exhibitor. Would it have been too much to ask that they also make red-blue anaglyph analogue 3D print as well, just for the fun of having three 3D format and three print formats? I’m sure that most movie goers given the choice will opt for one of the two 3D formats over print or 2D digital. But which one? Here is where it gets even more interesting:

Beowulf: An IMAX 3D Experience will be available at 16 Regal Entertainment Group IMAX theatres across the country. In IMAX 3D, films virtually jump off of the screen and float around the theatre. This is made possible by a combination of IMAXs powerful 3D projector which projects two strips of large-format film and polarized 3D glasses that audience members wear to fuse the left and right eye images. The result is an amazing three-dimensional cinematic experience where the screen disappears and the film becomes a virtual reality.

Regal Entertainment Group will present Beowulf in DIGITAL 3D at 121 locations utilizing REAL D Cinema Systems. REAL D Cinema Systems are comprised of several components, including a specially-treated movie screen; polarized 3D glasses; and the REAL D Cinema Z-Screen lens that mounts in front of the digital projector, enabling the projector to show three-dimensional images. Customized software by REAL D integrates the components to deliver a flawless 3D movie experience.

So if we do the math then 16 Imax 3D screens plus 121 RealD locations should make it a total of 137 3D Regal sites. But the press release clearly says 123 locations. So this must mean that there will be Regal multiplexes showing both Imax 3D and RealD 3D versions of the film! Which one will people opt for? Will the ticket price be different? How will the various versions be promoted in cinemas? There will be some very interesting number crunching going on at Regal, Imax, RealD, Paramount and elsewhere after the opening weekend. Unlike in the movie, one adversary will not finish off the other completely, but it might give us an interesting pointer of where the 3D battle is headed.

Longer term neither will be the true winner as 3D is already heading to the home. Taiwanese researchers are predicting 3D LCD TVs for the home within two years, which should be just in time for the network TV premier of ‘Beowulf’, so people will now be able to say that they don’t feel like going to the cinema but will catch in 3D at home later.

IMAX goes for digital cinema and 3D in 4K

IMAX BeowulfLarge format (LF) exhibitor IMAX is slowly pulling the curtains back on its long-gestating plans for digital cinema and how to hang on to the 3D cinema market segment, just as digital 3D is about to go mainstream with ‘Beowulf‘.

Few people remember that IMAX was once going to conquer the digital cinema space when it bought UK projector maker Digital Projection International (DPI), which was on of the the three DLP Cinema(TM) licensees. Having failed in this venture and hived off DPI to NEC (who have made an only marginally better job of it), IMAX promised that they would still show the world IMAX-digital with their super-secret projector project. Then things went quiet for a long time. Until now.

At the recently concluded ShowEast IMAX announced that it l install the first prototypes of its digital technology in mid-2008 in three of its theatres. According to the article in Hollywood Reporter:

Imax previously pointed to late 2008 and early 2009 as the likely rollout dates for its digital projection technology.

After the first six digital projection systems meet unspecified “performance specifications,” Imax said it planned to proceed with a full rollout in the last half of 2008.

The Imax digital projection system, now in development and trials, will enable theaters to receive movies on a hard drive for digital projection. That eliminates the need for costly and heavy Imax film prints that require loading via forklifts on clunky projection systems.

Unfortunately it is not only the ‘performance criteria’ that are unspecified, but the underlying technology as well. Fortunately there is more details in a news/analysis item from Screen Digest that tell us that:

No further details about the technicality of the system were revealed, but initially it was stated that each screen would be fitted with two Sony 4K digital cinema projectors, coupled with custom lenses, a high bandwidth server and Imax Image enhancement engine.

This fits in with previous speculation and rumours about IMAX’s plans. It also makes sense from a technical perspective because two IMAX projectors aligned would give enough brightness for a large format screen and also enable 3D with each projector providing left eye/right eye image. However, if I was Sony I would NOT be trumpeting this use of their technology, because it risks giving the perception that 4K is specialised large format (LF) standard for a niche market at a time when they want to compete with DLP 2K for the multiplex mass-market.

However, from a quality perspective it is true that 2K is closer to 35mm release print quality while 4K is closer to 70mm. It also highlights that at the moment you need two Sony 4K projectors to display digital stereoscopic images. But we won’t know the details for sure until 2008.

In the meantime IMAX have been quick to make sure that they too are part of the expected ‘Beowulf’ 3D bonanza by announcing that the film will go out in both digital 3D and on IMAX (traditional film) 3D. Having been the first to mass market 3D with ‘Polar Express’ IMAX have still not forgiven DLP digital cinema from snatching away the 3D crown in recent years and even went so far as to attempt to sue digital 3D companies In-Three – but failed.
In the meantime IMAX has been picking up new exhibitor deals, including a major one with Regal and even in Morocco.

To finish off on the subject of digital 3D, Wired has an article looking at the various aspects of 3D ahead of ‘Beowulf’ with some good insights for the average reader. Money quote:

But the spine-tingling moments weren’t when Ray Winstone, playing Beowulf, thrusts his sword at the audience — a 3-D cliché from the ’50s. They came when he faces a digitally enhanced Angelina Jolie playing the mother of the monstrous Grendel, in a dank, forbidding cave. Jolie makes for a stunningly seductive sorceress, so it’s all the more terrifying when her features momentarily morph into a death mask. A 3-D sword can make you jerk back in your seat, no question. But 3-D is even better when it draws you in — into the endless shadows of a cave, or into the vortex of a shrieking face.

The following day, the screenwriters were ecstatic. “It was like a third eye opened up in my forehead,” gushed Avary, who was already plotting out Beowulf when he wrote Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino more than a decade ago. “It’s so large and extraordinary and hyperreal that I can’t be anything but giddy. When I left the theater, I wanted the rest of the world to look like that.”

Hollywood is betting that audiences will feel the same way.

Not just Hollywood, but IMAX and a lot of cinemas and equipment makers too.


Odeon/UCI Inks Deal with Real D for 500 3D Screens

During a presentation at ShowEast on Wednesday to demonstrate their industry leading 3D digital cinema technology, Real D announced that it had reached an agreement with Odeon/UCI, the largest exhibitor in the United Kingdom, to install upwards of 500 3D digital screens. The 3D systems will be deployed, not only in the U.K., but in Odeon’s theatres throughout Europe, including Ireland, Germany, Austria and Portugal, as well as countries such as Italy and Spain which represent new territories for Real D.

The rollout is scheduled over the next two years and will commence immediately, in time for the release of “Beowulf”, which is being handled by Warner Bros. internationally, in addition to Disney’s re-release of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D”. The

As is always the case with such announcements execs from both Odeon and Real D both gave quotes for the press release. Drew Kaza, Odeon’s Digital Development, Executive Vice President, justified his circuit’s investment, saying:

“We’ve conducted extensive audience research about the digital experience and made a commitment to cinemagoers to provide state-of-the-art technologies. Real D’s groundbreaking 3D systems will offer Odeon and UCI audiences a truly unique cinematic experience.”

While Joseph Peixoto, the President of Worldwide Cinema for Real D expressed his excitement over the new agreement.

“We are thrilled to be working with Odeon and UCI to bring Real D to so many new markets. Real D remains the choice of exhibitors as the most advanced 3D cinema experience available, with our reach now expanded to over 60 exhibitors in 23 countries.”

Indeed, Real D has a lot to be excited about lately. Besides the Odeon deal, the company recently announced a deal with another U.K. exhibitor, Cineworld, to install 30 systems.

Challengers to take on RealD’s 3D dominance

Beowulf As the digital 3D release of ‘Beowulf‘ gathers steam, challengers see it as the right time to challenge the hegemony of RealD when it comes to providing in-cinema stereoscopic solutions. A Marcus Theatres in Wisconsin is one of the first ones to install the Dolby 3D system, though interestingly the first film shown will not be ‘Beowulf’ according to this article:

Point Cinemas, at 7825 Big Sky Drive on the Far West Side, will become the first cinema in the Marcus Theatres Corp. to have advanced digital 3D technology.

The Dolby 3D Digital Cinema system will be used in one of the cinema’s 16 theaters. The first picture to be shown with the technology will be the 1993 Tim Burton film, “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” on Oct. 19.

A company spokesman said more of its theaters will likely get the technology, which creates more realistic images and uses improved three-dimensional glasses.

Meanwhile in Korea at the Pusan film festival there are questions raised about the problems surrounding the screening of digital 3D films in Korea, according to the Hollywood Reporter article ‘Not everybody is ready or eager for 3-D future‘, which also gives details of another challenger:

Recognizing that the industry needs to focus on the issue, the Busan International Film Commission made digital 3-D its hot topic this week at the Asian Film Market. Seoul-based company Master Image showed off its projection system, already in use in several Korean theaters, designed to compete with American purveyors like Real D. And in a country where there is both national and local support for the growing film industry, Kim Sung-woo, manager of leading theater chain CJ CGV, says, “The government needs to provide support for digital cinema and 3-D systems.”

But beyond the usual tech and business questions, 3-D also might encounter cultural obstacles in Asia that could affect its wide-spread acceptance.

“In Japan, 3-D movies are not all the rage,” journalist and 3-D filmmaker Takayuki Oguchi says. Citing traditional Japanese art and modern anime, he points out that Japanese culture favors “very flat images.”

I for one saw the tests with digital 3D subtitles and it will be interesting to see which way Warner Bros, which is distributing ‘Beowulf’ outside North America, decides to go. It’s a problem all digital 3D equipment providers face and no one wil have a monopoly on the best solution. Unlike regular digital cinema subtitles, these cannot be created on the fly in the projector but must be embedded in the image file.

Paramount Signs Up To Arts Alliance’s VPF Deal

Paramount has become the third Hollywood studio to sign on to the European VPF plan proposed by Arts Alliance Media. The press release comes just in time for ShowEast. From the press release we learn that:

AAM is the only studio-backed digital cinema integrator in Europe. In June 2007, AAM signed Europe’s first long term agreements with Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Pictures International for digital cinema deployment across Europe, for close to 7000 screens over the next few years.

Andrew Cripps, PPI’s president said “PPI is delighted to have reached this agreement with Arts Alliance to roll out DCI compliant digital projection systems across Europe. This is a real step-change in the international arena which will only accelerate as 3D product becomes more commonplace and Paramount is proud to be at the forefront of this.”

There is a lot of talk in the press release about digital 3D, perhaps understandably as Paramount has ‘Beowulf‘ coming out soon (though it is distributed by Warner Bros in Europe) and is home to Dreamworks Animation SKG, which will release all of its films in digital 3D as of 2009.

The Paramount deal was to be expected as it was the one-time half of UIP, with former partner Universal (with whom it is still linked is some smaller European territories) having already singed a VPF deal with AAM. It will be interesting whether AAM wil announce any other studio partners or will come out with an exhibitor partner announcement next.