Cineworld, the UK cinema chain which is set to increase its number of digital screens by 100%, from 74 to 148, will self-finance the $5.57m (£4m) investment in order to capitalise on the growing 3D market.

The chain would not be drawn on the details of the self-financing but the move is a bold step in a market where European exhibitors have been slow to take up the main alternative on offer - the virtual print- fee model.

David Hancock, head of film and cinema at Screen Digest highlighted the significance of the growing 3D market as motivation for the move:

'The growth in digital screens is being driven by 3D. Exhibitors are saying 'if we want 3D we'll have to do it ourselves'.' Hancock said.

The cinema chain's recent agreement with NEC will see one in five Cineworld screens with digital capacity by spring, more digital screens than the rest of the UK industry put together.

Cineworld will use technology from RealD in 144 of its 148 screens enabling it to show 3D movies to 40,000 customers at any one time.

The chain will be well positioned for 2009's major 3-D releases, including James Cameron's Avatar.

According to a Cineworld spokesperson the next stage of its rollout of digital screens 'will start once agreement is reached with the film studios on the financial terms of such a move'.

Cineworld's additional installation of digital equipment is another step towards the anticipated eventual digitisation of the industry.