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Disney signs up to online film service

Dominic Timms
Thursday July 24, 2003

Fans of Catherine Zeta Jones's Oscar-wining performance in Chicago or Daniel Day Lewis' portrayal of Bill the Butcher in The Gangs of New York will soon be able to watch their favourite stars online after Walt Disney became the last big Hollywood studio to sign a deal with internet film service Movielink.

The deal means films from Disney's studio empire, which includes Dimension Films, Touchstone Pictures and Miramax, will be available on the broadband movie service, which launched in the US at the end of last year.

Movielink allows film fans to download a film in about an hour, depending on the speed of their internet connection, and watch it over the internet.

The Disney deal is expected to more than double the number of films available on the service to over 400, up from the 175 available at launch, as titles including Spike Lee's 25th Hour and CGI animation Monsters Inc join classics such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and Psycho on the service.

It marks the first major distribution deal for Movielink's owners, the big five Hollywood studios - MGM, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros, Universal and Paramount.

It also comes at a time when Hollywood is stepping up its campaign against movie pirates in a bid to limit the type of damage that has been done to the music industry by illegal download sites such as Napster.

Despite shutting many rogue sites the industry's lobbying body, the Motion Picture Association of America, says Hollywood lost around 1.86m in potential revenues last year after more than 500,000 films were downloaded illegally.

Earlier this year, despite a simultaneous global release strategy designed to prevent piracy, high quality illegal copies of The Matrix Reloaded were available online just days after the film's cinema release.

Starting this evening the MPAA, renowned for its aggressive stance against piracy, will broadcast the first of a series of "educational" adverts designed to dissuade US citizens from illegally downloading films.

"Digital piracy stands not only to damage our industry but the countless diverse businesses that depend on copyright protection. As our campaign continues to expand, we will be reaching out to those industries to join us in our commitment to educate the public, which is a crucial component in solving this problem," the MPAA president, Jack Valenti, said yesterday.

The MPAA's softly softly campaign, which also includes the launch of a new website,, contrasts with moves from its music industry equivalent, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Last month the RIAA said it would take legal action against anyone caught illegally downloading or making available significant amounts of music online.

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