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Hollywood ready to play PlayStation

Studios onboard for Sony's video service

Sony PlayStation is finally getting Hollywood movies, and Nintendo is finally getting a “Grand Theft Auto” game.

Those were the big news items disclosed at the E3 videogame confab Tuesday, as Sony announced that it has most of the major studios aboard for its long-awaited video download service for the PlayStation 3 and Rockstar shocked industryites by announcing that it’s making a new version of the ultra-popular “Grand Theft Auto” franchise for the DS handheld console.

Though Sony’s video download service has been long in the works (Daily Variety, June 27), it wasn’t clear how many studios would partner at launch. But Sony Computer Entertainment America topper Jack Tretton said Tuesday that Disney, Fox, Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount, Warner Bros., Turner and, of course, Sony Pictures are all offering movies and TV episodes for download on the PlayStation 3’s video service, which launched Tuesday.

The only major studio missing is Universal, which on Monday signed onto Microsoft’s competing videostore for the Xbox 360. Most major TV networks are not working with Sony yet, however, while Microsoft has them all.

Pricing and terms are very similar to those on Xbox 360 and iTunes. The key difference is that users who download movies or TV shows onto a PlayStation 3 will be able to transfer them onto Sony’s handheld PSP device as part of the price. Users can also download videos directly onto a PC from the PlayStation store.

Like Microsoft, Sony is offering some of its movies and TV shows in high definition. Both companies are aggressively competing to control the digital entertainment experience in the living room and using their videogame consoles as a key part of that effort.

Announcement of “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars,” the new DS game, is a coup for Nintendo as it tries to obtain more popular franchises aimed at core young male gamers, who have been somewhat skeptical of Japanese videogame giant’s pitch to the mass market aud.

It’s also good news for Rockstar parent company Take-Two Interactive, which typically sees earnings drop dramatically after the release of a “GTA” game. Now the company is following up the recently released “Grand Theft Auto IV,” which has sold more than 8.5 million units already, with a downloadable episode late this year and then “Chinatown Wars” next year. That will likely please investors and help executive chairman Strauss Zelnick and his management team to fend off Electronic Arts’ hostile acquisition offer.

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