OMAHA, Neb.-- Ballantyne Strong, Inc. (NYSE Amex: BTN), a provider of digital cinema projection equipment and services, cinema screens and other cinema products, announced today that it will provide 66 NEC Digital Cinema projection systems with RealD 3D technology to National Amusements, Inc. (39 systems) and Marcus Theatres Corporation, a division of The Marcus Corporation (NYSE: MCS) (27 systems). With each projector Ballantyne Strong will also provide high-gain ‘silver' screens required for 3D projection, and its service group will install over half of the projection systems. The installations are expected to be completed in the first and second quarters of calendar 2010.

Funding for the projectors was completed via Digital Link II, LLC (Digital Link II), an entity formed by RealD and Ballantyne in which Ballantyne has a 44% stake. NEC Finance provided debt financing to Digital Link II to fund the projector deployment. Ballantyne and RealD each provide guarantees for the debt based on their respective ownership in Digital Link II. The cinema screen sales are outside of the Digital Link II facility.

John P. Wilmers, Ballantyne's CEO, commented, "We are pleased to again team with RealD to expand the digital and 3D footprints of these important, long-term customers. It is particularly gratifying given these exhibitors' satisfaction with systems we have previously provided to them. The patron appeal and box office benefits of digital cinema and RealD 3D technology have been well demonstrated throughout the exhibition industry, driving demand for additional systems to take advantage of the growing slate of 3D releases."

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PALM BEACH, FL - The Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF) is inviting theatre owners and film bookers to attend this year's Festival, happening April 22-26, as the festival's guest. The PBIFF has extended this invitation in order to facilitate networking between theatre owners/film bookers and independent filmmakers and providing them the opportunity to attend screenings of top films from throughout the world.

"I am frequently asked by theater owners and bookers for recommendations on new independent films," said Randi Emerman, Festival Executive Director. "We will extend the invitation so the owners and bookers can see these films first hand and have the opportunity to meet the filmmakers. This is also a great opportunity for filmmakers to connect with the owners."

The Festival will hold screenings and five nights of exciting parties and events at locations throughout Palm Beach County. The complimentary invitation pertains to screenings and events, not travel expenses. Theater owners and bookers who are interested in attending the Festival are encouraged to call 561-362-0003 or to visit the website for credential forms and accommodation information.

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Las Vegas - GDC Technology ("GDC"), a world leading digital cinema solution provider, is pleased to announce that it has signed a server deployment contract with Zhe Jiang Time Cinema, the seventh largest exhibitor in China (according to 2008 published box-office collection). The contract will see the deployment of 100 units of GDC SA-2100A server starting from January 2010. To date about 20 servers have already been installed and it is expected that full deployment will be completed by end 2010.

Zhe Jiang based Time Cinema has a humble beginning as a provincial cinema operator dated back to 1950. It has since grown to become an inter-provincial cinema chain and as at 2008, it has 65 theatres under its wing with 207 screens and over 50,000 seats. With annual box-office takings of 161 million Yuan, Time Cinema has also climbed up the rankings to become the 7th largest cinema chain operator in China. "As the company who has installed the highest number of servers in China, GDC is a respected name in the industry whose quality products and professional service have clearly set itself apart from others," said JinTian Zheng, Technology Manager of Zhe Jiang Time Circuit. "It also came to our notice that GDC's range of products offers customers a smooth upgrade path so that their technology investment will not go obsolete. All in all, GDC's offer is one that meets most of our technical needs and at the same time offers us that extra bit of security that comes together with an established brand name; we know we are in safe hands working with GDC."

"Ten years in China and more than a thousand of installations in the country have put GDC in a unique position to fully understand the market here," said Dr Man-Nang CHONG, founder and CEO of GDC Technology. "Our wealth of knowledge and in-depth understanding of the China market allow us to offer our customers here solutions that truly address their business needs in addition to their technical needs. This contract is another vote of confidence from a prominent Chinese exhibitor and will surely further consolidate our number one position in the country; we are thankful for the support from all who have opted for GDC and will strive even harder to bring the best in digital cinema to our customers in China."

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Source: Ian McKellen's Official Site

Update (03/18/10): McKellen's site has changed the statement to say the film will shoot in July.

While the restructuring and potential sale of MGM continues to plague the production of The Hobbit, Ian McKellen appears to have revealed some good news for fans of the series.


His official site was recently updated with the following message:

"THE HOBBIT's two films start shooting in New Zealand in June. Filming will take over a year. Casting in Los Angeles, New York City and London has started. The script too proceeds. The first draft is crammed with old and new friends, again on a quest in Middle Earth.

The director Guillermo del Toro is now living in Wellington, close to the Jacksons' and the studio in Miramar."

Previous reports pegged June as a potential start date, although the films were recently delayed from 2011 to 2012. It is not clear whether or not McKellen updates his site personally, or whether someone else does it on his behalf and may have acted without official word. Other recent reports have suggested the films will be in 3D, although Del Toro said that a final decision hasn't been made.


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Total tweets for March 19th Openers

Diary Of A Wimpy Kind accounted for 347 tweets on Twitter on Tuesday, up from 293 tweets on Monday. In comparison, The Spy Next Door had 226 tweets its Tuesday before release, and The Tooth Fairy had 352. Its total tweets are not where I would have imagined, since right now its looking like 1,750 is going to be the upper limit which will drop its potential slightly into the lower $3 million range.

Repo Men again squeezed out the highest day total of the new openers with 671 tweets. Decent, but not spectacular. By comparison, The Fourth Kind had 752 on its Tuesday before release, and Daybreakers had 1,152. Given this relatively slim increase from Monday it might have a hard time hitting 3,000 tweets for the week which would really make even a $3 million Friday highly unlikely. $2.5 - $2.75 million seems about right.

Lastly, The Bounty Hunter had a solid 667 tweets reference it on Tuesday. A solid number but not close to Couples Retreat which had 938 tweets its Tuesday before release. Its clear that this isn't going to mirror the success of Couples but it could flirt with high $20 millions. Much will depend on its Wednesday tally and how much it grows. Stay tuned.

Check back tomorrow to see the Wednesday numbers and more comparisons. Follow @AlexBOXOFFICE on Twitter for additional updates.

Twitter tracking history. (For 2009's ratio history please check here.)

alltweets031210.jpgThe ratio is the number of tweets per $1 million of Friday Box Office gross. A film with 1,000 tweets and a $10 million Friday would therefore have a ratio of 100. In general, films that appeal to very young or older audiences have lower ratios since those audiences are not big users of Twitter. By comparison, films that appeal to younger audiences (18-35) have much higher ratios since those audiences are much more active users of Twitter.

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