3D-glasses-404_675044cCineworld is extending its lead in 3D digital. About half of the UK exhibitor’s screens will be 3D within three years. At present 33% of its 790 screens are digital. Cineworld has just announced a £30 million ($44 million) initiative with technology company Arts Alliance Media, rolling out across all of its 77 cinemas. AAM will collect virtual print fees from distributors, helping to repay Cineworld’s £40 million total investment.

AAM has virtual print-fee agreements in place with five of the Hollywood majors. It services VPF arrangements with 7,500 screens in Europe. The company operates the UK Film Council Digital Screen Network, so it has installed and maintains screens for nearly every UK exhibitor – multiplexes and independents alike. The technology company also has a deal with UK operator Reel Cinemas to digitise all 60 of its screens.

Cineworld posted a £40 million profit for 2009, boasting how it has led the way in 3D. There were grumbles that most of its digital 3D lead has come from the public purse, upgrading its 73 DSN screens to 3D and playing Hollywood blockbusters on them.

Get Deadline news and alerts sent to your inbox.