- CinemaNow Inc. on Monday said Universal Studios will make several films, such as “The Scorpion King” available at its Web site, marking only the second deal linking the Web distributor with a major Hollywood studio.
U.S. moviemakers, concerned with digital piracy of films and TV shows, are grappling with exactly how and when to make their films available to thousands of movie fans who want to watch movies on home computers via the Internet.
Several studios formed a company, Movielink, to foster a their own service for downloading or video streaming movies on the Web. But Movielink is still in development stages whereas CinemaNow, majority owned by independent filmmaker Lions Gate Entertainment, is functional.
Early last month, CinemaNow cut a deal with Warner Bros., maker of the “Harry Potter (news – web sites)” movies, to put some of its titles on the Web site. Previously, CinemaNow users were offered mostly independent films.
“Universal recognizes that Internet video-on-demand is a growing distribution platform for feature films with increasing demand and revenue potential,” said Holly Leff-Pressman, a senior vice president at Universal Television Distribution.
“Working with CinemaNow allows us to explore the demand for both the downloading and streaming of our content to an established audience while testing the quality and security of the environment.”
The deal calls for a four-month test period. Universal titles such as “Big Fat Liar, “Scorpion King” and “Brotherhood of the Wolf” will be available in November during their traditional pay-per-view cycle with satellite and cable TV.
Older titles from Universal’s library, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho” and “Erin Brockovich” starring Julia Roberts, will be available, too.
For now, most movie companies are only experimenting with online distribution for reasons that include technology limitations, along with concern over digital piracy.
Still, the movie studios are convinced they need to move ahead quickly to avoid the fate of the music industry, which is reeling from a slump in CD sales that many industry watchers tie to computer users’ ability to download songs for free.
Already, CinemaNow boasts that it delivers nearly two million video streams to about one million users per month.
Baby steps, but steps nonetheless.