Following similar recent moves by Walt Disney Studios andTwentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures has agreed to supply features to theDCI-compliant digital projection systems deployed by Christie/AIX.

Under the non-exclusive agreement Universal will provide titlesfrom its slate and will pay virtual print fees to Christie/AIX for each titleprojected on deployed systems as a way of offsetting the cost to theatres ofswitching to the digital format.

Universal top brass said pictures produced by the company's FocusFeatures and Rogue Pictures divisions may also be made available in digitalformat in the future under similar terms.

"This is a big step forward in the transition to Digital Cinema,"

Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of distribution, said. "Universal is pleasedto be making its first digital distribution deal. We look forward to workingwith exhibitors, Christie and [Christie parent company] AccessIT to provide thesuperior experience for moviegoers that this new technology offers."

Bud Mayo, chairman and chief executive Officer of AccessIT, added:"Gaining Universal's support for our Christie/AIX effort is another significantdevelopment in the evolution of digital cinema."

Christie/AIX is acting as the financing intermediary betweenstudios and exhibitors that have adopted the DCI-compliant digital cinemasystems comprising Christie DLP Cinema projectors, JPEG 2000 servers andrelated hardware and software including AccessIT's Theatre Command Center.

Christie/AIXexpects to install the first 150 systems in North America by Dec 31. The DCI(Digital Cinemas Initiative) was set up by the studios, exhibitors andtechnology companies to issue a set of standardised guidelines for the roll-outof digital cinema. After more than three years of discussion it finally issuedthe guidelines last summer.