Kids get peek at Cameron docu in 'virtual classroom'

HOLLYWOOD — Regal Entertainment will offer schoolkids in 10 U.S. cities sneak previews of James Cameron’s Imax docu “Ghosts of the Abyss” on Thursday, with NBC’s “Today Show” anchor Katie Couric moderating an interactive discussion of the Titanic research mission afterwards.

Cameron and actor Bill Paxton also will participate in the post-film chat.

Thirteen Regal theaters in markets including New York, L.A., Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Denver, Portland, San Francisco and Las Vegas will offer the sneaks. Circuit will use its new digital cinema network to conduct the interactive sesh among the various sites, with 3,600 students set to participate.

“This groundbreaking virtual classroom extends the excitement of (Cameron’s) groundbreaking scientific adventure and extraordinary history lesson to students across the country,” said Ray Nutt, exec VP of biz development at exhib’s Regal CineMedia digital unit. “We are thrilled to be using our new Digital Content Network to host such an exciting event.”

Regal’s digital network is still under construction in many locations, with exhib spending $67 million to install digital projectors and other equipment in two-thirds of its 6,000-screen circuit.

As screens come on line, Regal has begun using the equipment to play a 20-minute pre-show of ads and interstitial entertainment prior to feature presentations. But it also plans to regularly use the digital network to offer alternative programming such as sports, concerts and educational events.

“Ghosts,” which is being released by Disney in association with Walden Media, opens nationwide in 100 Imax theaters on Friday. Denver-based entertainment entrepreneur Philip Anschutz controls both Regal Entertainment and Walden.

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