SAN FRANCISCO -- Although it's not likely to be an overnight sensation, the video revolution is coming to a theater near you.
Pacific Bell plans to demonstrate an electronic movie-distribution system next week at a Southern California trade show. The technology transfers pictures and sound into electronic code, which can be sent to theaters through fiber-optic phone lines -- tiny glass filaments that serve as phone system "superhighways."
The electronic information is tightly "compressed" to make it easier for the phone system to handle. It takes only about three minutes to transmit a two-hour movie virtually any distance; theaters could then store the movie on computer disks or other storage devices.
The technology would allow theaters to instantly yank flops and order hits.
Assuming licensing deals could be worked out, they also could offer a wide range of other types of entertainment like pay-per-view sporting events, operas and rock shows.
This also would eliminate the need for moviemakers to print and distribute hundreds of copies of first-run films in giant metal canisters.
As a practical matter it will take years for video to bump celluloid in first-run theaters.