Disney, Dolby partner for digital cinema, 3D film

The media giant and technology maker plan to install digital movie systems in top 25 U.S. cities at their own expense.

Walt Disney and Dolby Laboratories plan to install 100 digital movie systems in theaters this fall, marking the third recent unveiling of plans for digital cinema that could revolutionize the film industry.

Media giant Disney and technology maker Dolby, which is providing the computer servers for the systems, plan to install the systems in the top 25 U.S. cities at their own expense.

Financial details were not disclosed, and spokespeople for both Disney and Dolby declined to comment on cost issues.

Disney and Dolby said Monday that plans call for the systems to be in place for the Nov. 4 release of Disney's computer-animated movie "Chicken Little," a computer-generated 3D movie using visual effects from George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic.

Some film directors like Lucas and James Cameron think the new 3D technology, which relies on digital filmmaking and projection, may spark new interest in movies, helping an industry worried over significantly lower ticket sales this year.

As part of the plans, Disney and Dolby will choose the 100 theaters and an announcement on the locations is expected at a later date, spokespeople for the companies said.

The plan marks one more advancement in the years-long process of bringing digital cinema to a wide number of movie theaters.

Earlier this month, technology provider Access Integrated Technologies and projector maker Christie Digital Systems offered plans to fund installations. Last week, Eastman Kodak and Belgian projector maker Barco also unveiled new digital cinema systems.

Digital projectors alone cost more than $100,000 per movie screen, according to industry estimates, and computer networks and equipment to operate them add to that expense.

For years, the question of who will pay for installations has delayed a rollout. Studios have argued that theater owners should pay, and theater owners want the opposite.

Digital cinema offers studios savings in film distribution costs. Theater owners might be able to use venues for other entertainment like satellite broadcasts of music concerts.

For audiences, digital cinema offers as good an image the first time a movie is shown as the 100th time.

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