Universal Pictures has launched a new service in Britain that will sell digital downloads of movies such as "King Kong" along with a DVD copy, tapping into the online video market now dominated by Apple's iTunes.
From April 10, consumers will be able to download two digital copies of selected movies -- one for a computer and one for a portable device -- and receive a DVD in the mail.
Universal's partner, Lovefilm, already has a movie download service that provides films from Warner Brothers on a rental basis. The new service announced on Thursday is download-to-own, meaning that the downloads will not expire.
Hollywood studios have been reluctant to sell digital versions of their blockbusters for fear they would be copied and pirated online.
The new service will use Microsoft's digital rights management technology, which is designed to prevent consumers from duplicating the movies, burning them to disc or uploading them to the Internet.
Lovefilm Chief Executive Mark Livingstone said he expected Warner Brothers and other Hollywood studios to follow Universal's lead in the download-to-own market.
Universal will start the service with "King Kong" as part of an initial collection of 35 movies, including "Pride and Prejudice" and "Serenity." "King Kong" will sell for 19.99 pounds, roughly equal to the retail price.
The download-to-own service will also be available through AOL, whose UK online movie service is operated by Lovefilm.