Fox exec hopes to see 'Tomorrow' on digital screens

HOLLYWOOD — Boeing has sold its digital-cinema unit to digital-media company Access Integrated Technologies in a deal expected to boost the number of screens available for the digital distribbing of summer movies.

New Jersey-based AccessIT, which specializes in the storage and delivery of digital media, intends to resurrect 30 digital screens Boeing allowed to go dark several months ago. The 4-year-old company is also acquiring software copyrights and other intellectual property assets in the transaction, which is valued in the single-digit millions.

Boeing operated 29 U.S. digital screens and one in London. Technicolor Digital — which services about three dozen digital screens — has been its chief competish in the d-cinema services sector, and DeLuxe Laboratories recently signaled its interest in entering the digital arena as well.

“We’ve got to talk to the theater owners who are involved with the Boeing screens and see what they want to do,” said AccessIT prexy Russ Wintner, a former Technicolor exec. “Assuming all of that goes well — and there’s no reason to believe it won’t — we’d like to be up and running within 45 to 60 days.”

That would be welcome news for Hollywood studios seeking to distrib movies on as many digital screens as possible. The number of viable digital screens had slipped below 100 in the aftermath of Boeing’s exit from the market.

Julian Levin, exec VP digital exhibition at 20th Century Fox, said he hopes to use some number of AccessIT sites in distribbing “The Day After Tomorrow,” a studio tentpole set for release May 28.

“As I get word from each of the exhibitors on each of those installations, I will approve bookings for those sites, provided the systems are in operation and serviced,” Levin said.

The Fox exec added he’d be most comfortable using AccessIT’s screens if studios are allowed flexibility in choosing who to use in distribbing materials to digital screens. Fox hopes to have 30-50 digital screens in place when “Day After” opens over the Memorial Day frame.

“If there were any questions about AccessIT’s position as the leading technology service provider for the digital cinema industry, this acquisition should put those to rest,” AccessIT chief exec Bud May said.

A dozen or fewer employees of Boeing’s d-cinema unit have been redeployed elsewhere in the aerospace giant’s integrated defense systems unit, a spokesman said. No layoffs are expected as a result of the d-cinema sale.

“The digital cinema market is evolving every day,” said Ron Prosser, Boeing’s VP of homeland security and services. “Boeing Digital Cinema achieved significant operational reliability, and now the technology is ready to be elevated to the next level.”

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