Sony, AMC Theaters in Digital Deal

In a sign the rollout of digital cinema systems may once again be picking up steam, AMC has reached agreement in principle with Sony to deploy its digital projectors across the entire AMC chain. Installation of the projectors begins second quarter 2009 and is skedded to be completed by the end of 2012. Sony says it has signed a $315 million deal to install its digital projectors in all AMC Entertainment theaters.

The contract will close the gap between Sony and Texas Instruments in the digital projector market. Texas Instruments has equipped 5,476 screens in North American theaters with its digital light processing projectors. The deal with AMC will increase Sony’s presence to about 5,000 screens.

"This is one of things that doesn't happen all that often, when you get a chance to do a big deal like this," Gary Johns, VP at Sony's Digital Cinema Systems Division, told Daily Variety. "Everybody's been waiting for the next big deployment."

AMC comprises some 309 theaters and 4,628 screens. Currently, AMC has 150 Sony projectors on its circuit, 29 of which have 3-D capability. The deal reps a possible improvement for the 3-D format as well, because the Sony projectors work with the RealD 3-D system, and can handle much more information that they make for a smoother 3-D image that's more comfortable to watch.

Johns hoped the deal, which marks the largest deployment of projectors capable of showing pics at the so-called 4K resolution, would signal the next phase of the d-Cinema rollout. All of Sony's digital cinema projectors are capable of the beefier new standard, which has four times the pixels of today's 2K digital cinema. Sony Pictures has announced it will make and release its pics in 4K. Warner Bros. has also been a strong advocate of the format.

By David S. Cohen, Variety