Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP) -- representing AMC, Cinemark and Regal Cinemas -- has worked out a deal to finance the installation of thousands of digital movie screens starting next year in the U.S. with the help of Lion's Gate, Paramount, Fox, Universal and Disney. Not participating, at least for now, are Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures, with the latter expected to announce a separate deal soon involving the installation of Sony 4K SXRD projectors around the world. Key to the deal? "Virtual print" fees, meant to help defray the expect $70,000 cost to switch to 3D-ready digital projection setups, as the studios will kick in the $800 - $1000 they would have spent on old school movie prints to finance the changeover. In the future they save by distributing only digital prints, not to mention having somewhere to show the dozen 3D flicks expected to debut next year. Both sides are betting the $1 billion package will help pull us away from the HDTVs and back into a movie theater, but until they work out a payoff with that one guy who won't stop talking, we're not sure how likely that is.

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Movie studios & theater operators agree to expand the number of digital, 3D-ready cinemas