Arts Alliance Media (AAM) has signed a deal with Yelmo Cines, one of Spain's leading exhibitors to extend their digitalofferingsadding a further 18 digital screens across Spain with 3D and satellite capabilities.

Yelmo Cines already has five digital screens at its Isla Azol multiplex in Madrid thanks to an agreement signed last summer with AAM and equipment installer Suministros Kelonik.

One impetus for the expansion is the expected roster of 3D films in 2009.

'We plan to convert all the new screens to digital and 3D within the next two to three months,' Rafael Urio, Yelmo Cines COO, confirmed to ScreenDaily. 'We want to get them ready for the major 3D films coming out this year.'

There are 15 3D releases scheduled so far for Spain in 2009, including James Cameron's sci-fi spectacular Avatar and Robert Zemeckis' fantasy A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey, both to be released in November.

However, the 23 digitised Yelmo Cine screens would still only constitute 6% of the total number of their screens in Spain (370). This reflects the overall picture in Spain where pick up of digital screens has been very slow.

The only other chains to install the digital projectors are Cinesa and Kinepolis, bringing the total number of digital screens across the country so far to only 39, out of nearly 5,000 in total.

'We are waiting for the right economic model before we push ahead with digitizing all our screens,' insists Urio. Yelmo Cines has funded the digitization through private funding, rather than the virtual print fee (VPF) model which AAM is pushing across Europe.

The smaller and more independent nature of European cinema has meant that ithas proved more difficult for many European exhibitors to adopt the VPF as a funding model than for their American counterparts.

That said Arts Alliance Media have confirmed that they are in discussions with Yelmo and other exhibitors in Spain about using the VPF model in the future.

Gwendal Auffret, senior vice president, digital cinema, Arts Alliance Media, commented on the partnership: 'We are very proud to be moving forward in our collaboration with a major cinema chain like Yelmo Cines. Digital cinema, 3D and alternative content will certainly be huge assets to exhibitors, in particular in Spain where the market has been tough in the past few ears. We believe Yelmo is right in being forward thinking and taking the lead with this technology as they have always done before.'

Fernando Evole, CEO of Yelmo Cines added: 'The digital cinema trial that we have been carrying out at Isla Azul has been a great success and now we are very excited about our partnership with AAM to deploy digital systems for 3D at 18 of our sites. At the same time we will keep working together with our partner AAM to expand digital cinema in Spain.'

The additional Yelmo digital screens will be situated across Spain, including Madrid, Tenerife, Oviedo, Las Palmas, Gijon, Peurta de Alicante, Malaga, Barcelona, La Coruna and Albacete.