Norway is on course to become the first country to convert all its movie theaters to digital projection after a nationwide pact was inked with several Hollywood studios, marking the first time a multidistributor deal has been secured for an entire country.

Norwegian film biz org Film and Kino, which represents almost all the 420 theaters in the country, has unveiled a virtual print fee pact with 20th Century Fox, Disney, Warner Bros. and United Intl. Pictures, which releases pics for Universal and Paramount in the territory. Film and Kino is also in negotiations with Sony.

The distribs will pay 40% of the conversion cost, Film and Kino will contribute 100 million kroner ($15.4 million) toward the remaining 60%, and the theater owners — most of which are municipal authorities — will pay the balance. All projectors will be DCI compliant.

Jorgen Stensland, director of consultants at Film and Kino, said he expects all the theaters to be converted within two years.

Among the advantages of having the whole country digital, according to Stensland: Prints will circulate faster, they will be shown on more screens, and the quality will be the same for all theaters, whatever their size and location.

David Hancock, head of film and cinema at analysts Screen Digest, said that with one body coordinating digital conversion, the transition will be faster and is much more likely to be completed.

Other countries, including Germany, the U.K. and Ireland, have also made strides toward full conversion, but because they have a number of competing chains negotiating individually with distributors, the process has been slower, more complicated and more prone to break down.