Wal-Mart has pulled the plug on its movie service in the US with hardly any warning to subscribers.

According to online reports and a statement on the movie subscription service website, the closure happened on 21 December.

Subscribers are now being asked to contact Wal-Mart for details.

Videos and other content remain playable but will still include copy restrictions as before, which prevent the videos from transferring to non-purchasing computers but allow their use on as many as three portable media players that support guarded Windows Media content.

No refunds are available and customers will have to visit a Wal-Mart store to buy more videos, the retailer has warned.

The service launched just 10 months ago, but did not achieve the sales expected, admitted Wal-Mart and content system provider Hewlett-Packard.

Online reports suggest, however, that Wal-Mart would have kept the service running but the low takings "forced an early termination of the backbone behind the service and left Wal-Mart with little choice".

Wal-Mart was the first to offer a video download site with access to movies from all of the major Hollywood studios (as compared to Apple's iTunes Store and other services that have negotiated licenses only with key studios or else been limited to older titles).

However, the Wal-Mart service did not draw enough customers while rumours are circulating currently that Apple is soon to launch its own movie rental service through iTunes.

Wal-Mart's store has only allowed purchases since its opening and may have suffered from this decision as a result, say analysts.