Movies For Sale Online Legally!

    April 3, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Except for the high prices, restrictive usage terms, and no extras a la typical DVDs, Hollywood has at least attempted to enter the downloadable movie market.

Companies like Apple and Microsoft should be happy with the announcement from six Hollywood studios that movies will go on sale for download this week. The terms of usage for movies downloaded from MovieLink or CinemaNow can only be played on a television if it his connected to a home network, a CNN report said.

Well, maybe not Apple. Visiting MovieLink with a non-Internet Explorer browser throws the site into a paroxysm of digital rage. “Sorry, but in order to enjoy the Movielink service you must use Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher, which supports certain technologies we utilize for downloading movies. Click here to get the latest version of Internet Explorer.”

We think MovieLink and its supporting studios, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox and MGM, read from time to time. They may wish to discover some reasons why IE may not be the browser of choice for some users.

CinemaNow, supported by Lions Gate and Sony (in a bit of bet-hedging on the latter’s part), at least renders its home page in Firefox and Opera browsers.

Pricing for downloadable videos ranges from $20 to $30 for the newest releases. Older titles are supposed to be available at a lower cost. It isn’t known what constitutes an “older title” in Hollywood mind-speak; for all we know Nosferatu could be the only film that qualifies.

Once a film has been purchased and downloaded, the user may create one backup copy for archival purposes, and that’s it. The copy cannot be viewed on standard DVD players. At least, not until DVD Jon releases a “fix” for that issue.

When considering that movies may only be viewed on a networked TV, it may be too soon to say this helps Apple as much as it does Microsoft. Both companies make media center software, Apple with Front Row and Microsoft with, well, Media Center. MovieLink’s system requirements list IE 5.0 or higher and Windows 2000 or XP.

That leaves Apple, its Mac mini, and Front Row out in the cold. And, it may irritate potential purchasers who own vehicles equipped with DVD players, like several minivan models.

Hollywood does not want to cannibalize DVD disc sales, and rightly so. The industry profits mightily from those sales. But how much could it make with a more generously priced online delivery model, where people could purchase just the movie with its restrictions for a lower price or choose the feature-filled DVD version at current rates?

The MPAA probably will never let us find that out.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.