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WB reels in digital deal

Sources indicate that Par will join soon

Warner Bros. has signed onto Christie/AIX’s digital cinema rollout plan, leaving Paramount as the only major not yet aligned with the effort.

Numerous sources have indicated that Par will join soon as well, possibly in time for next month’s “Mission: Impossible III.” Studio’s new subsid DreamWorks has committed to provide its content to Christie/AIX, and former DreamWorks distrib prexy Jim Tharp, who made the deal, now heads distribution for Par.

Both Warner and DreamWorks have also signed with Christie/AIX’s primary competitor, Technicolor.

In both cases, studios agree to provide most or all of their movies for screening on digital cinema systems the companies are deploying. Studios pay a “virtual print fee” for the film that’s about equal to making and distribution a film print.

Christie/AIX, a joint venture of projectormaker Christie and software company AccessIT, has started rolling out to Carmike Cinemas and several small chains as part of a planned rollout of 4,000 screens by the end of next year and 10,000 by 2010.

Technicolor is still beta testing but hopes to eventually deploy d-cinema systems to 15,000 screens.