3D and digital cinema have been the major talking points of this year's CineAsia conference (Dec 4-6), which is being held for the first time in the gambling mecca of Macau.

The move from Beijing, where the December event ran into freezing cold weather and red tape, has boosted attendance to more than 500 delegates, making this the biggest CineAsia in 14 years.

On the first day, Dolby gave a demonstration of its 3D digital cinema technology, and was followed yesterday by Kodak and Real D, who showed 3D clips from New Line and Walden Media's Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, along with sporting events and U2 concert footage.

Meanwhile, a host of digital cinema equipment and solutions providers, ranging from Barco and Deluxe Digital Media to local players GDC Technology, have held seminars and pitched their wares to Asian theatre owners.

Not that Asia's growing ranks of exhibitors appear to need much convincing. Digital cinema has taken root quickly in this region due to a combination of government initiatives in territories including China and Singapore and private investment in mature territories such as Korea and Japan.

At a seminar on Tuesday morning, China Film Digital Cinema Circuit said it has already installed 400 digital screens across the country. Many of these cinemas are expected to use the technology to screen sporting events during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Meanwhile, Kurt Rieder, UIP's vice president, sales & marketing, Asia, observed how successful the 3D presentations of Beowulf have been in Asia. In the Philippines, just 2% of the screensthat showed the film were3D-equipped, but accounted for 11% of the film's opening weekend box office. In India, 0.7% of the screens accounted for 8% of opening weekend grosses.

This year's CineAsia is split between two venues - the Wynn Macau hotel and casino and the Macau Tower where screenings are being held. An hour away from Hong Kong by ferry, the former Portuguese colony of Macau is fast becoming Asia's largest gaming and entertainment hub.

In 2006, Macau's gaming revenues outstripped those of Las Vegas where CineAsia's sister conference ShoWest is held.

Screenings at the three-day event include Fox's Alvin And The Chipmunks, Disney's National Treasure: Book Of Secrets, Warner Bros' I Am Legend and UPI's Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

The event closes tonight with a banquet and awards ceremony. Honorees include Golden Harvest's Raymond Chow (CineAsia Visionary Award), Lark International's Bob Vallone (Exhibitor of the Year) and Fortissimo Films' Michael Werner and Wouter Barendrecht (Award of Excellence).

Lust, Caution star Tang Wei will receive the Asian Female Star of the Year award while Korea's Rain (Jung Jihoon)will be honoured as Best Asian Male Star of the Year. On Wednesday night, Warner Bros' Erlina Suharjono was awarded Distributor of the Year, before rushing home for an I Am Legend press junket and the rare appearance of Will Smith in Hong Kong.