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TORONTO (Reuters) - Movie exhibitor Cineplex Entertainment has joined the growing crowd of media companies offering online movie rentals and sales in Canada, with the launch of its digital download service at Cineplex.com.
The company, which is owned by Cineplex Galaxy Income Fund, said the service complements its DVD and Blu-ray sales and will allow users to access movies through video-on-demand and download-to-own formats.
New releases will be available for digital download on the same day they are released on DVD and Blu-ray, Cineplex said.
"The best way to experience a movie is still in theater, but when guests want to enjoy the movie again, they can now choose from a variety of formats available from Cineplex.com," Chief Executive Ellis Jacob said in a statement.
The move by Cineplex follows the September launch by Netflix of its online video-streaming service in Canada, its first foray outside the United States.
Toronto-based Cineplex, which operates theater chains such as Galaxy, Scotiabank Theatres and SilverCity, said customers can either download the movie directly to their computer or to a digital locker hosted by Cineplex.
Analysts said the movie download service will put Cineplex on a firm footing versus Netflix, a major player in the digital entertainment category.
"So far Sony, Universal and Warner Bros studios have agreed to license their films to the service. While only three of the major studios are on board, we expect most of the rest to come soon given Cineplex's relationship with them," analyst Benjamin Mogil of Stifel Nicolaus said in a note.
Members of Cineplex's Scene loyalty program will be able to also earn points on digital download purchases and can redeem their points for further downloads.
Mogil said the new service will help Cineplex gain share in a market where Apple's iTunes is the market leader.
Cineplex, which owns, leases or has a joint-venture interest in 129 theaters, said it will be adding titles such as "Scott Pilgrim vs the World," "Sex and the City 2" and "Eat Pray Love."
"Going forward, we look for Cineplex to continue pursuing growth opportunities in premium and alternative cinema experience, with advancements to both the in- and out-of-theater experience," said Rob Goff of NCP Northland Capital Partners.
Reporting by Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay; editing by Rob Wilson