French chain to convert to digital

George Raymond pacts with Arts Alliance

Pumping Europe’s digital revolution, Arts Alliance Media has signed a $40 million pact with Gallic exhib Circuit George Raymond to roll out 400 digital screens in France.

Virtual print fee deal is the first AAM has struck with an exhibitor. Virtual print fees are a means of financing the conversion of theaters to digital. Both distrib and exhib contribute over time toward the cost of digital projection equipment, which the service provider pays for upfront. The model has proved its worth in North America, where more than 3,700 digital screens have been installed to date.

AAM has long-term digital cinema deployment agreements with 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures Intl. and Paramount Pictures Intl.

Deal will see all Circuit George Raymond screens — mostly multiplexes in midsize towns — receive a digital makeover, with a target of 200 screens installed by the end of next year.

Work begins immediately, with CGR hoping to have seven digital screens running by Christmas to make the most of releases such as “The Golden Compass,” which unspools in France next month. Under the deal, AAM will procure, service and maintain all digital systems.

Exact financial info was not released, but an AAM rep said: “I can give you an idea of the scale — the cost of installing one digital cinema projection system is approximately $103,000. To get the equipment paid off, plus interest on any financing, means that this deal has a value in excess of $40 million.”

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