‘Clones’ flies Boeing

23 digital venues set for bow after deals

Boeing Digital will today announce that a first set of digital-cinema deals has been put into place with exhibs, and execs estimate 23 such venues will be up and running by the May 16 opening of “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones.”

In total, 20th Century Fox expects about 60 digital venues will be sprinkled among 5,000 domestic screens for the “Clones” bow. About 20 recent Technicolor Digital installations also figure in that count as well as more than a dozen previously existing digital screens.

Some number of earlier installations won’t be used to show George Lucas’ latest space prequel because Lucasfilm execs fear anti-piracy safeguards may be too lax on the older systems. The older installations have been used for the digital exhibition of several other recent releases, including some Fox pics, but Lucasfilm is insisting on extraordinary security for “Clones.”

Screening clampdown

A separate sort of piracy concern prompted an unprecedented level of security at Tuesday media screenings of the pic.

Coincidentally, two of the day’s three press screening were exhibited digitally. But concerns seemed to focus on someone potentially sneaking in a camcorder to record a pirate copy of the pic — a misdeed more common in Malaysia than Century City.

Security at the screenings, held at the Loews Cineplex Century Plaza, exceeded even the kind of boosted measures in place these days at Hollywood preems over terrorism concerns. Measures in place for the much more pedestrian press screenings included a guard-posted security perimeter encircling front doors of the theater, hand-stamping of all attendees and three successive security checkpoints to check pocketbooks and bags.

A studio spokeswoman declined comment on the “Clones” security measures.

Short of goal

Meanwhile, Fox continues to finalize “Clones” exhib arrangements. But it appears that despite its concerted efforts, distrib will fall well short of having even 100 screens for the digitally produced space epic, which Lucas had been anxious to show widely in digital venues.

Lucas used a camera specially developed by Sony and Panavision on “Clones,” by far the most ambitious film production ever shot completely in digital. And the tech-savvy filmmaker believes movies shot digitally get the best onscreen results when also projected digitally.

Boeing Digital said it would list on its Web site later this weekend the names of individual exhibs for whom it’s installing various manufacturers’ digital projectors and file servers.

“Digital cinema will give theaters using the Boeing system a competitive marketing advantage and attract more moviegoers because every showing of a digital movie will be as sharp and full of detail as the first viewing,” Boeing Digital exec director Frank Stirling said. “This brings the cinematic experience closer to what was actually shot during filming. Moviegoers will see and hear the film the way the filmmaker intended.”