France’s TF1 is diving into ultra-VOD releases with the launch of a digital cinema platform. Kicking off with Blake Lively starrer “The Age of Adaline,” TF1’s plan is to acquire buzzed-about English-language films and release them in a big way on the net’s digital platform, bypassing theatrical release.

The platform is in the vein of the multiplatform model of Radius-TWC and Wild Bunch’s digital initiative.

The launch of this service by a player such as TF1, which operates the country’s top commercial TV network as well as production, distribution and exhibition businesses (via its deal with UGC), is a major development and could encourage more companies to consider ultra-VOD.

Indeed, France boasts the strictest window release schedule in the world, but more and more distributors find that the cost of virtual print fees as well as P&A spent to release films in theaters is too high for them to recoup.

“We created this platform because we noticed that the theatrical market has become increasingly saturated in France with approximately 500 new movies coming out every year; and at the same time, about 70% of them don’t sell more than 200,000 admissions in theaters,” said Tristan du Laz, who joined TF1 as head of video after working for Canal Plus’ VOD platform CanalPlay, and is spearheading the new venture. The exec added the idea behind the service is also to prevent piracy by releasing the movies as close as possible to the U.S. opening.

Du Laz told Variety that TF1’s strategy differs from that of Wild Bunch, which is more focused on arthouse films. “We strive to go for commercial, mainstream movies, mostly English-language movies with (a high-profile) cast,” said Du Laz. TF1 will promote them as theatrical releases, occasionally hosting red-carpet premieres with talent.

The rental rate starts at 6.99 Euros ($7.80). Users will also be able to download movies for $12.99.

“The Age of Adaline” will roll out on TF1’s service on May 22. Other pics on the schedule include “Everly,” “Son of a Gun” with Ewan McGregor and “How to Make Love Like an Englishman” (July 31).