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Hollywood Eyes Movies with 3D, Interactive Games, Live Events

The captains of Hollywood industry have a goal for the digital cinema roll out to theaters worldwide: to give movie-goers an experience they can't get elsewhere. To that end, they're even thinking about incorporating into the standard movie theater experience a whole slew of new digital stuff, stuff like interactive games, three-dimensional (3-D) content, and live concerts and sporting events. In fact, all those digital extras are being field tested as possible entertainment options once digital cinema platforms are in place at theaters.

Leading executives from several industry organizations, movie studios and technology companies provided a progress report Friday on the digital cinema roll out. They were gathered together by the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California (ETC-USC) and met at the digital cinema laboratory, a historical theater on Hollywood Boulevard built by Warner Bros in 1926.

"One thing we have learned, disruptive technologies rarely unfold in ways we expect or predict," said Bob Lambert, senior vice president for worldwide technology strategy at The Walt Disney Company. "Our challenge is getting people out of the home and into the theaters to be entertained."

Lambert, the moderator, took panelists from National Association of Theater Owners, Technicolor Digital Cinema, Christi AIX, National CineMedia, Twentieth Century Fox, The Walt Disney Studios and The United Kingdom Film Council through a series of questions.

Panelists agreed 2006 will become known as the transition year for digital cinema, as the movie industry shifts from celluloid to bits and bytes. They also, for the most part, reached consensus on the technologies, not all are ready for wide-scale deployment.

There is momentum, however. In four months, The Walt Disney Studios went from distributing digital movies to 100 screens, just prior to releasing "Chicken Little" in 3D, to 301 screens today, said Howard Lukk, executive director of production technology, The Walt Disney Studios. "Another number to note is we're at about 151 JPEG screens and about 150 MPEG screens, so JPEG for the first time has taken over, which is a great transition."

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