October 31, 2005

Universal to make digital movies for Christie/AIX

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Film studio Universal Pictures on
Monday said it agreed to make movies for new digital cinema
systems from Christie/AIX, bolstering the equipment company's
plans to place its products in theatres.

Universal becomes the third major Hollywood studio to
support Christie/AIX with a pledge to distribute digital movies
and pay a "virtual print fee," which is similar to the cost of
copying filmstrip and sending it to theatres.

Universal Pictures is part of NBC Universal, which is 80
percent owned by General Electric and 20 pct by France's
Vivendi Universal.

Earlier this month, News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox
studio said it would make movies for Christie/AIX, and in
September Walt Disney's Walt Disney Studios became the
company's first major distributor.

"This is a big step forward in the transition to digital
cinema," Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of distribution,
said in a statement.

The U.S. movie industry is in the early stages of a move to
digital cinema, and having major movies to screen is a
much-needed incentive for theater owners to install the
expensive digital systems.

Bud Mayo, CEO of Christie/AIX partner Access Integrated
Technologies, said he hopes to have agreements in place soon
with other major and independent distributors.

"I'd not be surprised if, by the end of the year, two more
major studios and two independents" agreed to deals, he said.

Access is partnered in the company with privately held
Christie Digital Systems USA.

Digital cinema promises audiences sharper pictures and
possibly new forms of entertainment, like updated
three-dimensional movies or satellite telecasts of live music
concerts and sporting events.

Disney has made a version of its new movie "Chicken Little"
in 3-D that will screen on more than 80 digitally equipped
theatres when it begins playing in the United States on
November 4.

For their part, the studios stand to save hundreds of
millions of dollars in distribution costs because they would
beam movies into theatres via satellites versus shipping
thousands of film canisters around the world.