“Hollywood studios will cross a significant technological and psychological frontier today when they offer the first downloadable movies that can be legally burned onto a DVD,” Dawn C. Chmielewski reports for The Los Angeles Times.

Chmielewski reports, “Today’s [CinemaNow] launch… previews a likely agreement between the major studios and Apple Computer Inc., which is expected to expand the offerings on its popular iTunes online store to include big-studio movies. Several studio executives Tuesday confirmed that they were holding talks with Apple but did not want to be named because of the sensitive nature of the discussions. Apple declined to comment.”

“Four major studios struck a deal with online movie service CinemaNow Inc. to offer more than 100 mainstream titles that can be copied to a disc and played on almost any DVD player or television set. Prices will start at about $9 a movie,” Chmielewski reports.

“Coupled with the CinemaNow agreement, an Apple deal would cement the Internet as a viable film distribution vehicle. Although studios have offered online movies since 2002, fears over piracy have kept the films locked to computer hard drives or to discs that play only on a PC. That restriction has kept the market for legal movie downloads relatively limited. ‘Burning is important to consumers,’ Universal Pictures Vice Chairman Rick Finkelstein said,” Chmielewski reports.

“CinemaNow’s service uses relatively new anti-piracy technology that prevents a burned DVD itself from being copied. Because that technology is still being tested, the initial batch of titles being offered was described by Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff as what’s left ‘at the video store when you arrive too late and the shelves are picked clean.’ CinemaNow is offering DVD burning before its main rival, Movielink, whose owners include the studios licensing their movies to CinemaNow. Movielink said Monday that it had struck a deal giving it the technology to offer DVD burning, but the company has yet to announce any content deals,” ,” Chmielewski reports.

“As with DVDs purchased at a store, the movies downloaded through CinemaNow can be played on virtually any DVD player with full remote control navigation and access to special features available on regular DVDs. Movie buffs can also print a DVD label and cover art. While a film downloads, a viewer can start watching it on a PC using Windows Media Player software,” Chmielewski reports.

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “apaerso” for the heads up.]
If CinemaNow can get a deal in place, certainly Apple can, right? Along with the existing iTunes user base and coupled with a “true” video iPod and maybe some other as-yet-unknown hardware and/or services, Apple will instantly become the one to beat in the movie download market, too. It also sounds like Apple, just like in legal music downloads, will be the only major service to support both Mac and Windows users as they do not rely on Microsoft’s proprietary Windows Media format and DRM.

Related articles:
RUMOR: Apple to surprise WWDC with iTunes movie rentals – July 18, 2006
Apple trying to negotiate movie-download price with studios – July 14, 2006
RUMOR: Apple to unveil ‘Mac Pro’ with new enclosure design, Intel Core 2 Duo at WWDC next month – July 03, 2006
Does Apple face delivery issue if they want to sell movies via iTunes Store? – June 28, 2006
Warner Bros. to distribute movies on Guba.com – June 27, 2006
CEO Steve Jobs to preview Mac OS X ‘Leopard’ with team of Apple execs at WWDC 2006 keynote – June 26, 2006
BusinessWeek: Apple agreement with movie studios for iTunes Store unlikely any time soon – June 21, 2006
Apple prepares debut of full-length feature films via iTunes Store in time for 2006 holiday season – June 20, 2006
Report: Movie studios flatly reject Apples’ proposed $9.99 pricing for feature films via iTunes – June 19, 2006
Report: Apple in negotiations with movie studios; $9.99 feature films coming to iTunes soon? – June 19, 2006
Disney to sell movies over Internet via CinemaNow in Windows Media Video format – June 05, 2006
Warner Bros. to sell movies and TV shows via BitTorrent – May 09, 2006
Universal launches film download/DVD service in UK – March 23, 2006
If Front Row can stream movie trailers from Apple, why not whole movies? – January 06, 2006
BusinessWeek: Movie studios need to smarten up and let Apple sell their movies – or be left behind – October 18, 2005
Universal to put its movies online – October 06, 2005