Cineplex launches digital download service for movies
Cineplex Entertainment wants to sell and rent movies to you.
The company is the largest movie theatre chain in Canada, with 1,342 screens across the country, and starting today (November 18) it will be making new release films available for purchase ("download to own") and rent ("video on demand") on its website.
The digital distribution service supplements the online storefront Cineplex has been offering since 2008 to sell DVDs and Blu-rays.
Cop Out, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and Sex and the City 2 are among the titles currently available for digital purchase (for $19.99) or rent (for $4.99). The catalogue of titles in the digital distribution store exceeds 1,000 and includes productions from studios such as Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Only standard-definition versions are currently available.
Kyle Moffatt is a spokesperson for Cineplex Entertainment. In a phone interview, he said that hundreds of films are being added to the catalogue every day, and that high-definition versions will be added in 2011, as per licensing agreements.
The plan to distribute films digitally has been in the works since the DVD and Blu-ray storefront was opened, Moffatt said, but it took time to build a website with the required functionality, and studio deals can be quite complex.
The digital distribution business for home entertainment is a very busy space. Apple sells and rents movies through iTunes and makes them available on televisions with AppleTV. Netflix recently launched a digital service in Canada, streaming movies—but not new release titles—to a number of home entertainment devices, including AppleTV and the PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360 game consoles.
Those with a PS3 or Xbox 360 can access new release films directly from Sony or Microsoft.
Moffatt said an advantage that Cineplex has over its competitors is the Scene rewards program. "Every time you buy something at Cineplex.com, you earn Scene points," said Moffatt. "You can use those later on to either purchase another title, or use them for a movie ticket at one of our theatres."
Movie files are in the Windows Media format (.wmv) and are played through the Cineplex Player, which uses Windows Media Player (version 10 or 11). That means that only computers running the Windows operating system can play the movies, although the movies can be played on a television with an Xbox 360 game console that is connected to a home network.
More devices, including connected TVs and Blu-ray players, will be enabled in 2011, said Moffatt.
The Cineplex Player tracks all purchases, so customers can redownload purchases if necessary.
Customers have 30 days after renting a film to watch it before it automatically deletes. Once a movie viewing has been initiated, customers have 49 hours to finish watching it.
New release films are priced for purchase at $19.99. They drop to $14.99 after 30 days, and after approximately 120 days, the price drops again, to $9.99. Rentals are between $2.99 and $4.99, depending on release date.
And until the end of 2011, customers can take advantage of a buy-one, get-one-free promotion. The offering is not limited to one per customer, either, so as long as they're buying two at a time, movie fans can purchase hundreds of films for under $10.