Imax is to open its first ever digital only cinema venues in a move mooted to be one of the most significant in the company's history.

The new cinemas will open Stateside - with two in Washington and one in Baltimore.

Three more will open in August in Philadelphia.

The new openings are part of a wider plan to switch from 70mm film to a digital system of projection.

Imax expects to have digital systems deployed at 50 sites by the end of this year, with the ultimate goal of converting its 296 owned or equipped venues in 40 countries.

"In 2006, we averaged about 35 new theater signings a year. In the last seven months, we signed 173 new theaters", Imax co-chairman and co-CEO Rich Gelfond told Reuters.

"That's because of the launch of the digital product."

In separate news - Imax has signed a deal this year with DreamWorks Animation that includes Imax distribution of the upcoming "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" as well as the studio's first three 3-D titles, starting with "Monsters vs. Aliens" on 27 March 2009, "How to Train Your Dragon" in November 2009 and "Shrek Goes Fourth" in May 2010.

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