The Norwegian cinema association, Film & Kino, has signed a virtual print fee (VPF) agreement with five Hollywood studios, to help finance the world’s first non-commercial national digital expansion.

The agreement has been reached with Twentieth Century Fox, United International Pictures (local distributor for Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures in Norway), Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International, and Warner Bros. Pictures International.

Jørgen Stensland, director of consultants at Film & Kino, said: “The digitisation project is a great undertaking for a small country. Under the deal the studios have committed to deliver wide releases to Norwegian theatres, including our own mobile cinema in rural areas.”

Paramount Pictures exec vp Roger Pollock added the agreement will place Norway at the forefront of new cinema technology – “an important step in Europe’s roll out to digital conversion which will hopefully serve as an influential example across the region.”

The transformation of all Norwegian theatres to DCI-compliant digital cinema houses will start later this year (2009) after public tenders for equipment and services required for the digitisation process. Costs will be shared by distributors, cinemas and Film & Kino.