Miramax offers “Guinevere” for rent as Internet download

The quest for downloadable cinematic gold continues as Miramax Films announced it will offer its 1999 release Guinevere, starring Sarah Polley and Stephen Rea, as an Internet download for $3.49 for a 24-hour viewing license. The 500-megabyte file will take about 30 minutes to download over a high-speed Internet connection.

The company states that the digital version of ‘Guinevere’ will play on home computers full-screen in near-DVD quality. The movie can be found on three Web sites beginning Jan. 22. After the license expires, the downloaded file will be useless. A copy of the movie sent via e-mail or copied to a mobile storage device also will not play, even with a valid license, according to the Associated Press.

Miramax Films, a unit of the Walt Disney Co., signed a deal in April 2000 with SightSound.com to offer 12 full-length feature films on the Web. The arrangement is an experiment to see how and if consumers will be willing to view downloaded films on a pay-per-view basis. Other studios have been exploring a video-on-demand strategy, making movies available over high-speed cable television lines or over private networks.

With the Miramax deal, SightSound is providing encryption and using Microsoft Corp.’s video compression technology to shrink the massive computer files to a more manageable size.

One day, all of these promises of ‘DVD quality’ picture and sound, and ‘manageable’ files and download times will actually come true. Could this be that day? (Hmmm…wouldn’t bet the farm on it yet…)

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