Digital push heralds 3-D 'Chicken Little'

In the first big rollout of digital cinema, the Walt Disney Co. and Dolby Laboratories are installing 100 digital movie projection systems worth $10 million at theaters this fall.

The technology will make its public debut with the Nov. 4 release of Disney's 3-D animated film, "Chicken Little," marking an advancement in the years-long process of bringing digital cinema to a large number of movie theaters

Only a few hundred of the country's 35,000 movie screens are digital. Though digital movie projection promises better viewing quality and lower distribution costs, there have been debates over technical standards. There has also been disagreement between Hollywood studios and movie theaters over who should pay for its deployment.

As the industry moves closer to resolving those questions, digital sound pioneer Dolby is positioning itself for leadership in digital video projection.

"By stepping out and putting some of their money in this (Disney) partnership, Dolby may be getting a jump on the marketplace," said Tom Scott, an engineering director of the Society of Motion Picture Television Engineers, the industry group expected to release final technical standards in the coming months. "It may become a crowded field."