Digital Switch Coin Found

Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. has secured a line of credit of up to $100 million to help theater owners make the transition to digital, a prerequisite for showing films in 3D. GE Capital Media's Communications & Entertainment business and French company Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking are providing the funds.

Once the deal for the coin is finalized, Cinedigm will use the credit to support the deployment of up to 2,133 digital systems next year as part of its 10,000-screen deployment. GE Capital's commitment covers up to 1,600 digital systems, and Societe Generale's up to 533 systems.

The line of credit was secured after all the major studios agreed to pay exhibs a virtual print fee for digital prints, helping to offset the cost of digital and 3D conversion. Cinedigm's announcement is good news for exhibs and distributors, since it heralds the thawing of credit markets.

Insiders said that the Digital Cinema Implementation Project -- a consortium formed by mega domestic circuits AMC, Cinemark and Regal -- also is close to securing a line of credit that will be used to convert auditoriums to digital. DCIP, through JPMorgan, was trying to secure the facilities when the economy tumbled.

The conversion to digital was a hot topic this week at annual exhib confab ShowEast in Orlando. Also at the confab, 3D cinema technology company RealD announced it has struck a licensing agreement with Look3D, which will design, manufacture and distribute RealD premium eyewear for consumers.

By Pamela McClintock, Variety