Several major Hollywood movie studios have signed up to a new digital film service led by Walt Disney Co. that lets consumers buy movies and store them in a digital locker to access on their devices, people familiar with the matter said.
Disney has been courting studios to join its Movies Anywhere service since last year, Bloomberg News reported at the time. Customers can buy, watch and store their online film purchases at a single site through the product. Major studios such as 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures are among those joining the service, the people said. The plan could be announced as soon as this week, they said.
The service could help studios compensate for the collapse in physical DVD sales and a disappointing year at the box office. By banding together, the makers of the world’s most popular films, including Disney’s “Star Wars” and Warner Bros.’ DC Comics, are betting they can succeed in attracting more users than their previous attempts did. Burbank, California-based Disney originally introduced its service under the name Disney Movies Anywhere in 2014, and other studios supported a rival format called UltraViolet.
North American theater ticket sales year to date are down almost 5 percent, according to ComScore Inc. Theater stocks fell Monday after another movie, “Blade Runner 2049,” disappointed at the box office last weekend. DVD sales fell more than 10 percent in the first half of this year, versus the same period last year, while electronic sales have grown over 8 percent, according to data from the Digital Entertainment Group.
Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures is the only one of the six major studios that isn’t joining Movies Anywhere, because of a disagreement over financial terms, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Paramount, maker of the Transformers films, and smaller Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., home of “The Hunger Games,” are supportive of the concept and may join later, two people said.
Disney Movies Anywhere used a proprietary storage technology called KeyChest that allows consumers to access movies on one site, whether they’re purchased online from Apple Inc.’s iTunes, Amazon.com Inc., Google Inc. or a brick-and-mortar store like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The service offered films from all of the company’s brands, including Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.