French major Gaumont hassigned a deal with digital developer XDC to offer its upcoming features in adigital format for cinemas equipped with the necessary projection systems. Themove makes Gaumont the first French producer/distributor to make its filmsavailable digitally.

The newly created XDCFrance, a subsidiary of XDC International, proposes technical and financialsolutions for the French market. 'At XDC, we work each day to make digitalcinema a concrete, reliable and advantageous offer for distributors andexhibitors,' said Bernard Collard, General Manager of XDC International. 'Thatis why we are so pleased that Gaumont has chosen XDC to encode its digitalsource masters, as well as encrypting and duplicating its digital copies.'

The first films from Gaumontto get this new treatment will be Le Lievre De Vatanen,Pars Vite Et Reviens Tard, BigCity, La Faute A Fidel,Chrysalis and Trois Amis.

France is currently equipped with a total of 5,300 screens only 20 of whichare digital at this point. While digital rollout has yet to begin in earnest inthe country, a report by France 3 cinema head Daniel Goudineau was published at theend of August which focused on the economic realities of outfitting theatreswith digital projectors and digitizing films themselves.

The main issues in France are finding a unique technical standard as well asfiguring out who is going to pay for the new installations. This is an ongoingdebate with no serious movement likely for some time.

However, Gaumont'sexhibition circuit, Europalaces - a joint-venture with Pathe - could be amongthe first players to get in on the game.