The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) on Wednesday became the latest Hollywood studio to offer movies for sale via the Internet by providing films like recent thriller "Flightplan" to CinemaNow, the online service said.
CinemaNow, which is based in Santa Monica, Calif., said Disney's home video division, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, will offer movies on a download-to-own basis for PCs and portable devices on the same day they are available on DVD.
Disney's move follows a similar announcement made in April by rival studios to offer titles for sale via Movielink, which is a joint venture owned by five Disney rivals and a key competitor of CinemaNow.
"The main thing is Disney chose us to be first for them to go out with electronic sell-through" on the Internet, said Bruce Eisen, president of CinemaNow. "We take that as a real nice vote of confidence."
Starting June 6 with the DVD release of basketball drama "Glory Road," Disney will begin offering both new movies and older catalog titles like "The Insider" via CinemaNow.
Eisen said prices would be similar to DVDs, or about $20 per new title and $10 for some of the older films. The movies can be transferred to up to three more devices including laptop PCs and handheld electronic devices, which was a key factor for Disney movies that are often made for families.
One large market for downloadable movies has been parents who load digital copies onto laptop PCs and place them in cars for kids to watch while parents are driving.
The CinemaNow purchasers will not be able to burn their downloaded copies onto DVDs, which is a feature consumers want but studios are not allowing until burned DVDs can be more strongly protected from illegal copying.
Until just last month, Hollywood's major studios had declined to offer their movies for sale online due to fears they would be pirated and sold on black markets, which they believe will hurt their box office and home video revenues.
On April 3, however, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount Pictures began offering download-to-own films via Movielink. The same day, CinemaNow said it would offer movies from Sony, MGM and LionsGate Entertainment Corp.
A Disney spokesman said Wednesday's pact with CinemaNow was non-exclusive, meaning Disney can make similar deals with other online services in the future.
Universal Pictures is operated by the NBC Universal unit of General Electric Co. (GE). Sony Pictures is owned by Sony Corp., Warner Bros. by Time Warner Inc. (TWX) and Paramount Pictures by Viacom Inc. (VIAB) Twentieth Century Fox is owned by News Corp. (NWS). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is owned by a consortium of investors including Sony and Comcast Corp.