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CinemaNow Offers Movies for Download

Online movie service CinemaNow Inc. has reached an agreement with major movie studios to sell movie downloads that consumers can burn onto DVDs for permanent use, and will launch a beta version of the service today.

CinemaNow, which has been selling movies in both pay-per-view and subscription form for several years, will offer movies from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, MGM Worldwide Digital Media, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, EagleVision and Sundance Channel. The initial launch includes 100 movies and videos, featuring such titles as Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Scent of a Woman and Barbershop.

CinemaNow, which recently got $20 million in financing in a round led by satellite operator EchoStar, is using fluxDVD content protection technology from German firm Ace GmbH to allow users to securely download the movies and burn them onto a DVD through their PC, then play them on a standard DVD player. Pricing for the burn-to-DVD titles starts at $8.99 per movie.

CinemaNow began offering download-to-own movies in April, and the ability to extend ownership to a removable media like DVD is a natural extension of that application, says Curt Marvis, CEO of CinemaNow.

"We see this as seminal moment," says Marvis. "For years, our customers have asked us. 'Why can’t I burn movies and play them on a DVD player?'"

The CinemaNow DVD titles, like CinemaNow's standard pay-per-view downloads, are compressed for Internet delivery at a rate of 1.5 megabits per second using MPEG-4 [H.264 compression]. Once they hit the PC, they will then be transcoded back to the MPEG-2 format for recording on standard DVDs. While the picture quality won't be as good as a typical DVD sold at retail, Marvis doesn't think that minor difference will be a problem, given the convenience of not having to wait for a shipment or head to a retail store to get a DVD title.

"When you download iTunes audio, you don’t have a big flashing sign that says this is not CD-quality audio," says Marvis. "Most people don’t care about the difference."