Brand new ‘Mission’

Par will beam pic to at least 135 exhibs

Paramount is going digital for the first time with “Mission: Impossible 3.”

When studio launches its tentpole next week at an expected 3,500-plus theaters, it will distribute the film digitally to at least 135. Par has never before played one of its movies on a digital screen.

Studio hasn’t yet signed a pact with either of the companies overseeing digital rollout — Christie/AIX and Technicolor — but it will work with a variety of partners to put out “MI3.” Deals with one or both firms are expected soon.

Amongst the majors, Par has thus far been the lone holdout on digital projection, looking at the space skeptically under its old exec team, including distrib topper Wayne Lewellen.

But new leadership seems more open to the idea. Jim Tharp, Lewellen’s replacement, signed a pact with Christie/AIX when he oversaw distribution for DreamWorks.

With DreamWorks movies being distributed by its new parent company, it was inevitable that Par would go digital, especially for its biggest bet of 2006.