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Hollywood hits now showing on Net

Hollywood, Nov. 11: Five major movie studios plan to begin offering films via the Internet from today through Movielink, Hollywood’s most aggressive move yet on the Web.

The long-awaited service is designed to open a new path for movies into the home, relying on the Internet and digital bits instead of physical media such as videotapes or DVDs. Its initial lineup of about 175 movies will be available only to US consumers with high-speed Internet connections, who will have to watch the films on computers powered by Microsoft Windows unless they can connect their television sets to their PCs.

Analysts say Santa Monica, California-based Movielink faces several hurdles that could take years to overcome, most notably the fact that the vast majority of consumers aren’t equipped to watch the service’s films on their TVs. “The average movie lover is not going to run out on Monday and try this,” said P.J. McNealy of GartnerG2, a technology research and consulting firm.

Spokesmen for Movielink and several of its Hollywood sponsors said they view the first few years as a time for experimentation and discovery, not profit. A main goal for the studios, they said, is to avoid the fate of the record companies. Most major labels didn’t make their songs available through the Net until after online piracy became rampant, leading some observers to wonder whether they would ever regain control of their businesses.

“We need to start the process and get this service up and running, test it, get feedback, and spend the necessary time to perfect it,” said Rick Finkelstein, president and chief operating officer of Universal Pictures. “You want to be sure that you’re there when the demand occurs. Otherwise, there’s a risk that the pirates come in and occupy this space.”

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