CinemaNow, an online movie download service, now allows customers to create standard DVDs of movie files. Movielink, a competing movie download service, announced last week that it will soon do the same.
The changes represent a major shift in policy among motion picture studios. Previously, the studios have prevented DVD copies and forced users to watch downloaded movies on computer screens. The new services allow the movies to be played on any DVD player.
Curt Marvis, chief executive of CinemaNow, told the New York Times that consumers like to watch movies in their living rooms, and this solves their problem. The studios participating with CinemaNow include Sony, Disney, Universal, MGM and Lions Gate, which is a major shareholder in CinemaNow.
CinemaNow has been selling downloaded movies since April, but the movies were restricted to computer viewing, and the downloads only included the film. The new offering also includes the bonus material on DVDs, such as filmmakers' commentary and extra scenes, the Times reported.
The picture quality of the discs made through the download will not be as high as that on commercial DVD because the files require greater compression to reduce the downloading time, the report said. A typical download will take three hours.
The studios are not yet allowing new feature releases to be sold in a form that can be copied to DVD. Initially, CinemaNow will offer about 100 older titles. Prices will range from $9 to $15, the same as the films sold in versions that could be downloaded only to computers.
The Times reported that CinemaNow has chosen to use a copy-protection technology made by Ace, a German company. Movielink said it has licensed technology from Sonic Solutions.
However, Reuters reported, the Movielink download-to-burn service will not be available until the company obtains a license for DVD encrypting technology later this year. Jim Ramo, MovieLink's chief executive said the plan is to get the service into the market in the next six months.
Only a portion of Movielink's 1500-title library will be available for download-to-burn until Movielink clears those rights with its studio investors, Ramo said.
Movielink is a joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. Studios.