The Independent Cinemas Association of Australia (ICAA) says it has reached an agreement with four of the six major studios and the Australian Independent Distributors Association (AIDA) to help cinema owners fund the conversion from 35mm film prints to digital projection.

The announcement, made last year by ICAA president Kieran Dell and vice president Benjamin Zeccola, did not name the studios.

“We are continuing constructive and regular discussions with the remaining two major studios in order to finalise commercial terms with them in the near future,” they wrote in a letter to ICAA members on December 21.

“As soon as these terms are finalised, we will be able to communicate to you the final details of the scheme that has been negotiated between ICAA and the studio representatives, and present you with the final version of the VPF Agreement that reflects the final scheme design.”

The implementation of the “virtual print fee” (VPF) scheme has been an arduous one for independent cinemas – in February, 2011, Paramount became the first distributor to agree to terms and last August the association said it had completed a second deal with an unnamed distributor.

However, the finalisation of the scheme hit another hurdle after ICAA’s preferred digital deployment company – a subsidiary of Omnilab Media – lost a court case launched by ICAA’s previous incumbent, DCN.

ICAA president Kieran Dell said the association has continued working with Omnilab up until this point but the relationship between both parties is being reviewed.

A further announcement about the VPF negotiations is expected next week, with the scheme expected to commence in the first quarter of 2012.

Contact this reporter at or on Twitter at @bcswift.

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