Yet another new business venture has been formed with the promise of breaking the digital cinema fundingdeadlock in the US.

Access Integrated Technologies and projection equipment supplier ChristieDigital Systems have created a subsidiary offering to help pay for installationcosts of 2K resolution projectors in exchange for long-term support and equipment contracts.

The agreement includes a two-year plan for a 2,500-screen rollout, with morethan 200 screens to be operational by the end of the year

A new company Christie/AIX will act as both a funding vehicle andadministrator.

The complex funding idea calls for the payment of what the new company calls "virtual print fees." No studio has yet signed up though discussions are believed to be underway.

Christie/AIX expects the initial push to encourage more institutional investment creating momentum behind the rollout.

The advance of digital cinema has been slowed by a row between theatreowners and studios over who will pay.

This is not the first time that a third-party, in the form of equipment providers, has come forward to take a leading role in breaking the stalemate. In 2001, both Boeing and a joint venture between Technicolor and Qualcomm announced separate plans to fund digital transmission systems that would then be leased to theatre (see linked stories below).

Jack Kline, president of Christie USA said: "We share (with AccessIT) aunified vision of the future of digital entertainment.

Elsewhere in the world, digital rollout has been patchy with Ireland and the UK making the running.

Both have been supported by public money.

Screen International is holding a conference on digital cinema on September 28.