updated 10/25/2006 8:10:38 AM ET 2006-10-25T12:10:38

Sony Corp. said Tuesday its digital projection system is market ready after tests conducted by an entertainment industry advisory board, and the company expects to announce new deals to install the systems in movie theaters in coming weeks.

The SXRD projection system boasts more than 8.8 million pixels per screen, four times the resolution of digital theater systems now being installed in theaters across the country.

Movie theaters worldwide are transitioning from old film projectors to new digital projection systems, which promise sharp pictures without problems of scratches and age that affect film, but the shift has been controversial and bogged down in debate over cost and technology issues.

Sony came late to the market for the movie-quality digital systems and has spent months working out brightness problems with its 4K projectors. Those systems boast 4,096 horizontal pixels compared with 2,048 horizontal pixels for rival 2K projectors made by Barco Digital Cinema, Christie Digital Systems and others.

Sony digital projection systems have already been installed on 12 Landmark Theatre screens, and the company said it plans to begin producing 100 units per month starting in December.

Nearly all of the U.S. screens that have been converted to digital projection from 35 millimeter use 2K systems.

Digital systems include a digital projector attached to a computer server and player, which store, decrypt and play digital files of movies. The 4K system costs about 10 percent more than the 2K system's average $90,000 per screen.

The National Association of Theatre Owners has described the transition to digital projection involving 37,000 U.S. screens as "the most significant technological transition in its history."

The industry is in the process of establishing performance and uniformity tests for digital systems based on a set of specifications known as the Digital Cinema Initiatives.

Sony said its 4K projector met or exceeded DCI standards earlier this month during a three-day, side-by-side test against 2K Barco projector.

Andre Floyd, marketing manager for Sony's SXRD Systems, said the test "was a rousing success for our 4K system."

A source familiar with the test said the 4K projector did "fairly well" compared with the Barco projector.

Floyd said Sony has received commitments from four major Hollywood studios that they will release their films on digital files in the 4K format.

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