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Disney & Christie to Support 200 Digital Screens This Year

The Rollout is Real By Nick Dager

The Walt Disney Studios' distribution arm Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Access Integrated Technologies' Christie/AIX unit have entered into a non-exclusive agreement to supply feature films from Walt Disney Pictures and Touchstone Pictures to DCI-compliant digital projection systems to be deployed by Christie/AIX.

Christie/AIX will install between 2,500 and 4,000 systems throughout the United States and Canada over the next two years.

Disney is the first major studio to sign an agreement to provide content for Christie/AIX digital systems.

AccessIT's Christie/AIX unit serves as the funding vehicle and administrator for the company's 4,000-screen digital cinema rollout plan expanded from the one originally announced in June 2005. Under the plan, Christie/AIX will act as a financing intermediary between content owners - including major studios and independent distributors - and exhibitors who will utilize DCI-compliant digital cinema systems including 2K projectors and related hardware and software.

The raising of capital for funding of the initial 200 systems was completed on July 21, 2005.

"We are thrilled that we have come to an agreement with Christie/AIX to supply content to their digital projection systems, and we will continue to support other deployment plans in order to ensure the future success of the exhibition industry," says Chuck Viane, president, BVPD. "DCI-compliant digital cinema rollouts will allow consumers to enjoy the highest quality cinema experience available while providing clear benefits to exhibition partners. We couldn't be more pleased with the top-of-the-line performance of Christie projectors and look forward to seeing our films presented in the highest digital viewing quality available."

Jack Kline, president and COO, Christie, says, "Exhibitors were one of our top priorities when we crafted the agreement. We wanted to ensure that maintenance costs remained similar to that of film projection while providing higher quality images."

Chuck Goldwater, president and COO of Christie/AIX says, "The Disney contract is the first of several announcements concerning our rollout plan that we expect to make in the weeks ahead. It re-affirms our confidence that the plan is viable, practical and workable for all industry participants. We are encouraged and grateful for the growing support from the studios and from exhibitors, which will enable AccessIT to continue to help drive the industry's transition to the digital future."

NATO president John Fithian did not want to comment on the announcement and referred people, instead, to exhibitors longstanding position calling for a rollout that includes all six major Hollywood studios and a definite beta testing period to verify that there "are no dark screens." 

"We appreciate the importance of this signing as a major step forward for AccessIT and the industry," says Bud Mayo, chairman and chief executive officer of AccessIT. "Disney has always been extremely forward-thinking in the digital cinema space, and in supporting this venture in particular. We expect this to be the first of several signings with studios in the next month or so, accompanied by agreements with exhibitors."

"The most important part is that the rollout is starting in October," says Mayo. He says there will be a minimum of 125 screens and as many as 150-200 screens in place by Christmas.

The goal is to have installations in place in one or two of the biggest chains but Mayo insists the rollout will not be limited to the biggest chains.   "We're committed to doing some small [chains], too. So that they can learn and that we can learn," he says. He stresses the need for training and says that Christie/AIX will be responsible for that. "This is a great responsibility," Mayo says, "and one that we welcome."

Mayo says the long-term goal is to have 10,000 digital screens operating by the end of 2008.

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Nick Dager is the Editor & Publisher of Digital Cinema Report. He can be reached at [email protected]
Related Keywords:Walt Disney Studios, distribution, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Access Integrated Technologies, Christie/AIX, non-exclusive agreement, feature films, Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, DCI-compliant, digital projection systems deployed


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