US gets legal internet movie download service

Hollywood studios announced today that American's would be able to download their favourite blockbusters via the internet instead of having to queue on the high street to get their movie fix.

Both CinemaNow and Movielink, on-demand movie services in America have announced that it they have signed a licensing agreements major studios.

CinemaNow has signed agreements with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Lionsgate to offer movies for download-to-own purchase through its website.

Beginning today, CinemaNow customers can choose from more than 85 premium Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, MGM, and Lionsgate movies for legal and secure download.

Meanwhile six studios have signed up with competiting website Movielink. The site which is jointly owned by five of the seven major studios.

Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox and MGM will offer some first-run and older titles on Movielink.

MovieLink will charge customers choosing to download the latest films between $20 and $30, similar to DVD prices in America, while older titles will sell for $10 to $20.

CinemaNow however will only be chargin $9.95 to $19.95 depending on their popularity and age.

The head of CinemaNow, Curt Mavis, described the move as "one giant step for digital distribution".

For a limited time CinemaNow has said that it will also offer an exclusive "Buy One, Get One for $4.95" promotion, allowing customers who buy one movie to purchase another for just $4.95.

With the new download-to-own option, customers can purchase and download a legal, permanent copy of a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment or Lionsgate movie for unlimited playback on the download device.

MovieLink will be allowing customers the chance to burn the downloaded movie to a disc in Windows Media format for backup or playback on up to two additional tethered computers.

The movies can also be downloaded to a notebook computer for traveling. Using a Media Center Edition PC, consumers can stream their copy of the movie to a TV set connected to a media center extender or Xbox.

All content will be copy protected by Microsoft's Windows Digital Rights Management (DRM) software.

Among the movies initially offered on a download-to-own basis will be recent launches such as "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Saw II," as well as catalogue favourites ranging from "Easy Rider" to "Bad Boys."

Upcoming titles that will be available the same day as their DVD release include the Jim Carey comedy "Fun with Dick and Jane," on April 11th, and the horror film "Hostel" on April 18th.

A similar service was announced in the UK by the AOL and film site lovefilm earlier this month where customers buy a DVD and are also given the chance to download a digital version of the movie to play on their desktop.

It will be available from 10 April.