The Digitial Cinema Distribution Coalition, the d-cinema consortium formed by AMC Theatres, Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark Theatres, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros., has pacted to acquire the Deluxe/Echostar satellite network.

The satellite network sends films and other content to theaters, eliminating the need to ship hard drives. Such digital delivery is considered a crucial step in realizing the promise of digital cinema in theaters.

“It’s a huge leap forward for DCDC and for the industry, really,” DCDC CEO Randy Blotky told Variety about the acquisition. 

Until now, Blotky said, Deluxe/Echostar has been both DCDC’s primary service provider and owner of a competing distribution network. Many theaters had to have satellite dishes for both networks. With this transaction, some confusion in the d-cinema distribution market should be eliminated, said Blotky. Deluxe/Echostar, formed in 2010, will remain DCDC’s primary service provider under the deal.

Over the next year to 14 months, DCDC will convert the 699 already deployed Deluxe/Echostar screens to DCDC as  well as adding another 300 that were not yet deployed. “We’ll have one homogeneous network,” said Blotky. DCDC will absorb the costs of the conversion.

DCDC already had commitments for 17,000 screens from 1,200 theaters at its October launch. DCDC receiver systems have been deployed at about 950 of those theaters.

“This helps to define for the marketplace our path forward in terms of our second tranche of installations,” said Blotky.

Disney, Sony, Fox, Paramount, Lionsgate and Open Road have come on as content provider partners with DCDC. Blotky said more content providers are in talks and he expects the acquisition will cement DCDC’s relationship with distributors.  “They’ve been putting their wide release and some not-so-wide-release content through us,” he said. “We’ve far exceeded our expectations.”