Odeon, UCI Plan Digital Makeover

In another step on the road to cinema digitization in Europe, leading chain Odeon and UCI cinemas (owned by Terra Firma) said they are planning on digitizing 111 of their 200 cinemas in Europe for £4 million ($6 million). Odeon's intention, which was announced to the Daily Telegraph, readies the exhib for the onslaught of 3-D films hitting Euro wickets in 2009 including James Cameron's Avatar.

Odeon's move make it's a good week for the advancement of European d-cinema. London-based digital cinema outfit Arts Alliance Media announced Wednesday that it has secured €43 million ($55.8 million) in funding from financial services firm Econocom and private investors to plow on with its digital ambitions.

Odeon, clearly sold on the appeal auds of digital and 3-D, recently opened two Imax screens at busy London multiplexes that have been playing Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Odeon claims the changes will leave 70% of its European consumer base within half an hour's drive of a digital screen at one of its cinemas.

"This is a steppingstone to getting all of the estate fully digital," said Rupert Gavin, chief exec, Odeon and UCI. "In the U.K., the full digital roll-out will commence in 2009 and take a couple of years to complete."

By Archie Thomas, Variety