Disney dives into pic download pool

The Mouse House has finally made its first move into online movie sales.

Beginning today, Disney will sell permanent copies of its movies in the homevideo window via online retailer CinemaNow. Studio is the third to pact with the Netco for online sales, along with Sony and Lionsgate, the latter of which has a minority stake in the company.

Disney already rents its movies in the pay-per-view window on the Internet via both CinemaNow and its competitor Movielink.

The download-to-own market launched in April, when every major except Disney pacted with Movielink and Sony and Lionsgate went onto CinemaNow (Daily Variety, April 3).

At the time, many were surprised that Disney held off since it was the first company to start selling TV shows online via Apple iTunes.

Mouse House apparently waited for the ability to transfer digital downloads to portable devices so consumers could watch movies on the go or connect them to a television set. CinemaNow is expected to roll out that capability in the next few weeks.

Movielink is working on that technology as well and will likely get Disney films once it nears launch.

Both companies are still waiting for the ability to let consumers burn downloaded movies onto DVDs, a complicated process that requires approval from industry trade group DVD Forum.

Disney pics that will soon be available on CinemaNow include “Flightplan,” “Eight Below” and “Chicken Little.”

Many had speculated the Netco might have trouble signing up studios, especially those with a family-friendly reputation like Disney, since it sells and rents adult content through a separate Web site that is linked on CinemaNow.com.

Since launching last month, download-to-own has done only modest business since consumers can’t yet transfer to portable devices or DVD and prices aren’t cheaper on the Net, as with music.

“It has been in line with expectations,” said CinemaNow prexy Bruce Eisen. “We are experimenting with different price points to find out what makes the most sense.”

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