Duo to install capability on digital projectors

In a move that underlines exhibitors’ urgent embrace of 3-D, National Assn. of Theater Owners’ Cinema Buying Group has pacted with Real D to install 3-D capability on the group’s digital projectors — before it has even sealed its deal for those projectors.

CBG has selected AccessIT to provide digital projectors for its theaters, which comprise more than 8,000 screens, but has not yet inked the paperwork. Even so, the org pressed ahead with its Real D announcement.

Higher ticket prices and strong audience interest have combined to make digital 3-D screens much bigger revenue producers than standard screens.

Though CBG’s pact with Real D is technically nonexclusive, member theaters stand to get a break as more of them install Real D equipment. Once a certain number of CBG screens have Real D installed, Real D will waive some of its fees for those screens. Real D’s standard terms include a royalty on 3-D ticket sales.

Real D systems are in use on the vast majority of the digital 3-D screens in the U.S. It requires ongoing fees from theaters.

Real D will go to work immediately installing its 3-D add-ons on some 100 digital projectors in CBG theaters. Company’s prexy Michael Lewis told Daily Variety that Real D expects to install the add-ons for as many as 1,000 screens over the next 24 months.

He estimates there will be 2,500 Real D screens ready for 2009′s big 3-D tentpoles, including DreamWorks Animation’s “Monsters vs. Aliens”; “G Force,” from Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer; “Ice Age 3″; Pixar’s “Up”; and Fox’s “Avatar.”

“We’ve kind of been on the one-yard-line with 3-D,” Lewis said. “The mood has changed significantly. By November and December, we will be installing on top of digital projectors in a very big way.”

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