Oscar-winning comedy available for download

At least two more majors have joined Disney in allowing their new releases to be sold via Apple’s iTunes Store.

Fox decided to go all the way on “Juno,” offering it for purchase on Tuesday, the same day that the DVD and Blu-ray versions hit shelves. Paramount has begun testing download sales of new releases as well: It offered “Beowulf” for purchase shortly after the pic hit shelves Feb. 26, and “Jackass 2.5″ was made available on the Web on Dec. 19, one week before the pic’s DVD release.

A Fox rep said it’s likely the studio will offer more new releases for sale in the future but indicated that decisions would be made on a title-by-title basis.

A Par spokesman said the studio has started experimenting with selling films on iTunes on a download-to-own basis during their new-release DVD window.

That more majors are even dipping their toes into the iTunes sales waters on new releases reps a notable breakthrough for Apple topper Steve Jobs, who has been trying to lure other studios to do so even since Disney entered the fray a year and a half ago. The Mouse House, which has a relationship with Apple since Jobs is its biggest individual shareholder and sits on its board, ran into static from Wal-Mart when it offered the made-for “High School Musical.”

Other studios have hesitated to follow suit due to concerns about Apple’s pricing and fears that Jobs could become too powerful. Par, for example, allowed certain older movies to be purchased on iTunes but barred new releases from the service until now.

However, there have been signs that resistance is thawing. In January, the majors all joined iTunes’ movie rental service under the respective studios’ video-on-demand window. At the time, several home entertainment toppers told Daily Variety that it was just a matter of time before their movies would be available for purchase on iTunes as well.

Studios, all of which are already offering movies for sale through other Netcos, are grappling with ways to grow their electronic sell-through and VOD businesses without further weakening DVD sales. Amazon.com, for example, has a variety of new releases available for purchase and rental on its Unbox service. Fox and Paramount are on board there, as is Warners, Universal and Sony.

Fox has already had great success with the “Juno” soundtrack on iTunes. It’s one of iTunes’ top sellers in that category. On Tuesday, the studio put a second soundtrack, “B-Sides: Almost Adopted Songs,” up for purchase on iTunes.

The studio is also hoping to further extend the “Juno-verse” for the movie via a deal with Starbucks. The DVD went on sales at the coffee chain on Tuesday.

Fox’s entry into the iTunes sales arena follows a series of pacts with Apple. It became the first to offer a digital copy feature that enables purchasers to transfer pics onto Apple devices; Lionsgate has since followed. And the studio was one of several majors to sign on to Apple’s iTunes rental service in January; those titles are available for rent during the VOD window.

“Juno,” for example, won’t be available for iTunes rental until May 14.

(Ben Fritz contributed to this report.)

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