Apple and Hollywood still discussing plans for early movie rentals

Movie studios are still considering plans to offer premium early access movie rentals via iTunes, Bloomberg reports. Despite objections from cinema chains, Hollywood wants to forge ahead in offering digital rentals of films only weeks after they arrive in theatres, according to people familiar with the matter. Discussions about possible studio agreements between Apple and the studios began late last year, and have been ongoing for months since, although the two sides have been struggling to arrive at a means for offering a $30–$50 premium movie-download solution that would be mutually beneficial.

Leading Hollywood studios involved in the project include Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures, although Disney appears to be remaining out of the plans for now. The studios are said to be eager to come up with a new service that would compensate for declining DVD sales in the Netflix era. Studios had previously suggested a revenue sharing arrangement with the cinema chains, however theatres have been looking for extremely long-term commitments — extending for as long as 10 years — which the studios consider untenable. The studios are therefore contemplating excluding theater chains entirely and forging ahead with the project without their blessing. Sources suggest a deal could be reached as soon as early next year to offer digital purchases or rentals of major films as early as two weeks after their theatrical debut. Although as content owners the studios have full rights to proceed with such plans on their own, movie houses could retaliate by boycotting films that are slated for early digital release.

Further, not all studio executives are on board with the idea of bypassing the cinema chains, as exhibitors still have a great deal of power in the movie industry. Further, due to antitrust rules, each studio and movie chain has to negotiate its own independent agreements, so it remains unclear how inclusive the new early digital release plan would ultimately end up being.


Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.