Digital media technology company Qualcomm and Carlton Communications-owned Technicolor Digital Cinema are teaming up to provide an open standard distribution system for digital cinema.

The joint venture, to be called Technicolor Digital Cinema LLC, marks another major step forward to finding a useable method to deliver digital films worldwide - a key link in the advent of electronic cinema. Technicolor will retain a majority share of the entity while both companies will be involved in the initial day-to-day operations and management.

Trials of this prototype delivery system are likely to start at the beginning of 2001, with production equipment expected to be available later next year. It was also announced that Technicolor's existing digital cinema trials will be expanded to 30 cinemas at the end of this year.

"Technicolor's experience providing distribution service solutions and content management to the entertainment industry, coupled with Qualcomm's proven compression and encryption technology and expertise in digital communications and network system integration, will enable a service unparalleled in the industry," said president of Qualcomm Digital Media, Kimberly Haile in a statement. "We are creating an enabling technology and service while continuing to work with the industry to provide the options they need to enter into the digital age of motion picture delivery."

Based in California, the new company will initially target the US film industry but will be seeking other strategic partners as it expands into global markets. The system will provide a range of capabilities from taking a motion picture from a studio master through to the cinema's digital projection system. Delivery will either be by physical distribution, such as DVD-ROM, or via satellite.

At the US exhibitors' convention ShoWest in March this year, Qualcomm pacted in a three way alliance with film processor and duplication company Kodak and projector manufacturer JVC to develop an end-to-end digital projection system.

Qualcomm signed several research and development pacts for its telecommunications business in China earlier this week.