Dale Dietrich
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Morgan Freeman and Intel Team Up for New Internet-based Movie Download Service – Clickstar

Categories: Big Media Makes ProgressBigMedia v NewTechNew Business Models

Morgan Freeman's production company is in a new venture with Intel called ClickStar to launch independent films on the Internet within weeks of their theatrical debut. The first such movie to be distributed through ClickStar is Freeman's newest film, 10 Items or Less. It will be available online on December 15 – two weeks after its cinematic debut. Clickstar's next first-run digital release will be the upcoming John Travolta/James Gandolfini film, Lonely Hearts, next spring. The service will also make older feature films available for download.

Freeman and company would have launched 10 Items or Less on the Internet on the same day and date as in the cinema but this would have disqualified them for Oscar consideration. Apparently a two week delay gets them over this Oscar hurdle. Prices will range from US$1.99 for renting an older movie to around US$24.99 for buying a DVD-quality download of a first-run film.

Dale's Comment: As a movie fan, I look forward to this new form of movie distribution becoming ubiquitous.  Distribution through the net, on the same day, or close to the same day, as cinematic releases, and easily viewable on the consumer's living-room TV –  this is a winning formula!

Despite protests from the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) and the ever-present "we've always done it another way" Big Media opposition, this form of distribution is, in my opinion, a fait-accompli. It's just a matter of time. 

How it Works: This USA Today article has the best description I've found online of how the system will work. Given that this is a partnership with Intel, my fear was that this would be some kind of proprietary set-top device like Disney's ill-fated MovieBeam.  Happily, it will be a Media Center PC-based service.  Anyone with a Media Center PC should be able to download the service's content.  Media Center will be built into the higher-end versions of Microsoft's Vista operating system due out next January. All such Media Center content can be viewed in the living room on the consumer's TV through an Xbox or Xbox 360 connected to the PC via an inhome network.

Hopefully this service will not remain proprietary to the Microsoft Media Center platform.  Ideally ClickStar will also partner with TiVo, Apple and Sony for distribution through TiVos, Apple's forthcoming iTV device and/or the PS3 as well. And hopefully this will not be yet another U.S.-only service so that those of us in the movie-loving diaspora can be part of the fun too!

UPDATE: Since I've been asked this question more than once I'd like to clarify. You won't need to own a Media Center PC to use this service after January 2007. The higher-end versions of Vista (specifically the Home Premium and the Ultimate editions) will have the Media Center functionality built in. So, any PC that can run the higher-end Vista Operating Systems should be able to drive this system – assuming you upgrade your PC to one of the higher-end Vista O/S versions.

Sources: abc NEWS | USA Today | ZDNet | The Age | EurWeb | Columbus Dispatch (AP) | The Independent | Washington Post | The Mercury News | Clickstar Website

Morgan Freeman on Charlie Rose speaks about ClickStar – see time index 4:50-9.50

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