Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hi-def downloads start today

In a major shift in movie distribution, a high-definition version of the hit The Bourne Ultimatum will be released through Vudu's online service today - the same day the DVD comes out.

It is the first of many HD movies Vudu plans to deliver online at the same time DVDs become available. Owners of Vudu's set-top box, which costs $399, use a high-speed Internet connection to watch the movies they rent and to download the ones they buy.

Movies usually are released in staggered "windows" in different formats - DVD, online through Xbox Live and other companies, or on demand on cable. Hollywood studios are experimenting more with digital distribution, and a few have agreed to work with Vudu to sell HD movies, though the selection remains limited.

Some in the industry worry that competition between the two high-definition formats -- Blu-ray and HD DVD -- is holding back production in high definition as consumers debate which format to use. That choice is not an issue for people who download movies with Vudu.

Universal Pictures, the studio behind the "Bourne" movies, is the first to offer a downloadable HD version of a movie the same day as the DVD is released. In addition to working with Universal, Vudu has signed deals to distribute HD content from Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate.

The Vudu box, which first went on sale in October, offers a catalog of about 5,000 standard-definition films, which can be rented for 99 cents to $4.99. Some films, including the HD editions of the "Bourne" films, can only be purchased, meaning they can be stored permanently on the set-top.

The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum will sell for $24.99 each, though Vudu customers can get the two older movies for free during the holiday season. (info from The Associated Press)

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