Lionsgate, iTunes team for digital film files

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Lionsgate has struck a deal with Apple Inc. to begin including a digital file with new DVD releases for the iTunes Store, the companies announced Monday.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based mini-major will include a digital copy May 27 with the special edition DVD and Blu-ray releases of "Rambo." It will do the same with the Jessica Alba thriller "The Eye" later this summer.

Lionsgate currently offers digital editions of "3:10 to Yuma," "Good Luck Chuck," "War," Showtime series "Weeds" and catalog titles "Dirty Dancing" and "Reservoir Dogs" in iTunes.

The digital files can be viewed on a PC, Mac, video-enabled iPod, iPhone or via Apple TV. They can only be transferred to one iTunes account.

Lionsgate joins studios Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in testing the concept of including a digital copy with packaged media.

With an extensive DVD catalog exceeding 12,000 titles, Lionsgate has aggressively sought alternative distribution channels to mine incremental revenue opportunities, including cable and Internet video-on-demand and now iTunes.

"A digital copy is a perfect example how packaged media and new digital technology can work hand-in-hand for the benefit of our customers," said Steve Beeks, president and co-COO at Lionsgate.

The announcement coincided with recent reports that suggested electronic sell-through of movies is difficult, even with the Apple name.

A survey conducted by The Diffusion Group of nearly 2,000 broadband users found that fewer than 10% regularly downloaded movies from the Internet to their PCs.

A separate report found that Apple's nascent iTunes movies rental service was short 60% of the 1,000 titles it promised by the end of February.
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