Euro exhibitor to digitize 111 of 200 cinemas

LONDON — In another step on the road to cinema digitization in Europe, leading exhibition group Odeon-UCI said it is planning on digitizing 111 of its 200 cinemas in Europe.

Move will cost £4 million ($6 million), chief exec Rupert Gavin told the Daily Telegraph. The chain has 30 screens digitized at present.

Gavin said the changes will leave 70% of its European consumer base within half an hour’s drive of a digital screen at one of the group’s cinemas.

“This is a steppingstone to getting all of the estate fully digital,” he said. “In the U.K., the full digital roll-out will commence in 2009 and take a couple of years to complete.”

The move readies the exhib for the onslaught of 3-D films to hit Euro wickets in 2009, including James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

The announcement makes it a good week for the advancement of European d-cinema.

London-based digital cinema outfit Arts Alliance Media announced Wednesday that it has secured e43 million ($55.8 million) in funding from financial services firm Econocom and private investors to plow on with its digital ambitions.

Odeon-UCI, clearly sold on the appeal auds of digital and 3-D, recently opened two Imax screens at busy London multiplexes that have been playing “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.”

Odeon-UCI is owned by Guy Hands’ private equity group Terra Firma, which also owns music giant EMI.

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