Ready for movies in the cloud? Studios bet you are

Mon Oct 10, 2011 5:30pm EDT
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood is making a major bet this coming holiday season that consumers will buy movies, instead of renting, and view them on the go.

Facing the steady decline of physical disc sales, studios from Warner Bros to Sony will launch their UltraViolet cloud-based movie storage -- or "digital locker" -- service.

The studios are making a push to jump-start movie sales by attracting consumers to the cloud. The new digital lockers keep purchased copies of films on remote servers for viewing any time on various devices, a move to make movie ownership more appealing.

Renting movies, far less profitable for studios, has dominated the home entertainment scene since Netflix Inc made unlimited monthly rentals cheap and convenient.

Starting this month, consumers can buy the first film discs offered with UltraViolet, a format designed to allow instant streaming or downloading on devices ranging from videogame consoles to tablets and Web-ready televisions.

Walt Disney Co, the only major film studio not backing UltraViolet, plans to kick off a similar option in the coming months called Disney Studio All Access.

With a "buy once, play anywhere" message, studios hope consumers see more benefits to owning movies. Backers are pitching flexibility for multiple devices, the promise of owning rights to a movie for a lifetime, and the advantage of a cloud-stored copy not hogging hard-drive space.

UltraViolet offers "more value for digital ownership. You can stream wherever you are," said John Calkins, executive vice president of global digital and commercial innovation at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.   Continued...