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5/22/2008
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Sony To Distribute Hi-Def 'Special Events' To Movie Theaters

Sony plans to distribute high-definition showings of concerts, sporting events, Broadway shows, and other performing arts to movie theaters equipped with digital projectors.

Sony Pictures has formed a business unit to distribute high-definition showings of popular music concerts, sporting events, Broadway shows, and other performing arts to movie theaters equipped with digital projectors.

The new venture called The Hot Ticket will distribute its first show in August. The event will be the final show of the multi-year, worldwide tour of "Delirium," Cirque du Soleil's innovative circus performance that features musicians, dancers, singers, and acrobats. The last performance was in London's O2 Arena.

The idea behind The Hot Ticket is to offer the general public the opportunity to see sold-out events on larger-than-life, high definition screens at local theaters. The concept takes advantage of the growing number of U.S. theaters switching from analog to digital projectors, which make it possible to distribute programming faster and more efficiently.

Sony plans to entice audiences with one-of-a-kind sold-out events. "Going to your favorite theater doesn't mean just going to the movies anymore," Rory Bruer, Sony distribution president, said in a statement.

In September, Sony plans to distribute the final show of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway hit "Rent," which has been running for 12 years. Each event presented by The Hot Ticket will be a limited engagement.

Bruer told Reuters news agency that programming will initially be distributed to 400 to 500 screens in theaters nationwide. Tickets are expected to cost $20 each.

About 5,000 of the 39,000 movie screens in the United States are digitally equipped, according to the National Association of Theatre owners. That number, however, is expected to increase rapidly.

Sony is not alone in targeting movie theaters with special events. Walt Disney struck pay dirt at the box-office with the 3-D concert release of "Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert."

Several theater chains have teamed up in showing auto racing, soccer matches, and Tour de France competition, Reuters said. And National Amusements has shown select Boston Red Sox baseball games in its Showcase Cinemas in New England since 2003.

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