Two of South Korea's top exhibition companies, Megabox Cineplex and CGV, have announced the completedigitalisation of their entire chain of cinemas.

Market leader CGV, owned and operated by local distributor CJ Entertainment,has unveiled plans to install digital projectors for all 266 screens of its32-venue network by early January 2006. The screens will be connected toa central server located in Bundang, a suburb of Seoul, enabling programming for theentire cinema circuit to be handled from a single location.

With initial work to be done on the CGV Yongsancinema in central Seoul, CGV will test out the new distribution network inNovember with a live sporting event before screening Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire exclusively on digital after itsrelease on December 1.

Meanwhile Megabox Cineplex, a joint venture betweenlocal distributor Showbox/Mediaplex and LoewsCineplex, plans to convert Korea's most popular theatre, the16-screen COEX Megabox in Seoul, to digital by January.Remaining venues, including two new 8-screen cinemas scheduled to open in thecoming months, will be fitted with Barco projectorsby mid-2006.

All systems are expected to conform to the voluntary specifications set out byDigital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), a joint venture created by the major Hollywood studios in March 2002.

Although initially film and digital screenings are likely to co-exist at thetwo companies due to a lack of digital content, local producers areprogressively warming towards the HD format. Both Megaboxand CGV have also expressed interest in screening live events and making otheruses of the flexibility provided by programming from a central server.