Arts Alliance Media has signed a digital cinema virtual print fee agreement for 400 screens in France.

The deal with Circuit George Raymond (CGR), one of France's largest chains, is an exclusive deal for AAM to deploy digital distribution services on all of the chain's 400 screens throughout France.

The rollout will start in early 2008, with 200 screens to be completed by the end of the first year.

Under conditions of the pact, AAM will create a fully DCI -compliant digital cinema network within CGR. AAM will procure, service and maintain the systems, including projectors, servers and a theatre management system.

The much-discussed Virtual Print Fee (VPF) model is a means to finance digital cinema conversion with both distributors and exhibitors funding costs over time, funded up front by AAM.

The VPF model has been proven in North America, with over 3,700 digital screens installed to date.

AAM has virtual print fee arrangements in place with studios Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures International, and Paramount Pictures International.

AAM 's CEO Howard Kiedaisch said: 'This agreement is an epic milestone for the industry, for AAM and for audiences Europe-wide. CGR is clearly a visionary leader in the European exhibition community and they are seizing the enormous opportunities that digital cinema offers to strengthen and sustain their business, as well as to revolutionize the movie-going experience.'

Jocelyn Bouyssy, CEO of CGR Cinemas, added: 'We are delighted to be the first movers in the digital transition and to enter into a new era of French and European cinema.'