On Monday, Miramax Films (miramax.com), a unit of The Walt Disney Co., and SightSound.com began offering the movie "Guinevere," starring Sarah Polley and Stephen Rea, on their Websites.
But it's no freebie. Viewers pay $3.50 for the film, which takes about 30 minutes to download to a computer over a high-speed Internet connection and several hours over a 56 kbps modem.
Once downloaded, the movie plays at near DVD quality, SightSound.com says.
But if you're thinking about forwarding it to a friend, or making a permanent copy for yourself, well, you can forget that - your copy of the film will be good only for 24 hours, even if you try to send it to a friend or burn it onto a CD-Rom or some other storage device.
"If this is how people want to get movies, we're going to give it to them legit," said Scott Sander, the CEO of SightSound.com, in an interview with the Associated Press this week. "Guinevere" is the first of 12 films that Miramax and SightSound.com have agreed to offer online to see if people will use the Internet to view feature films on a pay-per-view basis.
SightSound.com also offers other pay-for-play video presentations, including features and documentaries on the arts and sports, and children's subjects.
Does this mean the end of the corner video store? Probably not - at least until high-speed bandwidth is ubiquitous. After all, who wants to wait hours to download a movie over a dial-up modem. But once technologies like DSL, cable modem, and high-speed wireless become as common as the VCR, you might want to think about selling your stock in Blockbuster.
Tom Regan is associate editor of csmonitor.com.
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