YouTube Premieres Movie Rentals at Sundance

YouTube (s GOOG) just announced on its blog that users will be able to rent movies from the site starting this Friday, but don’t hold your breath for streaming The Hangover anytime soon: The initial offering will consist of just five independent movies featured at this and last year’s Sundance Film Festival. The movies, which include the 2009 Sundance Audience Winner The Cove, will cost $3.99 a pop and are available until the end of Sundance on January 31st.

Google has been playing with the idea of movie and TV show rentals for a while. In fact, Google Video initially featured an option to rent movie downloads, but the offer was quickly scrapped after it failed to take off. Reports about renewed efforts to jump on the VOD bandwagon surfaced last fall when the Wall Street Journal wrote about talks with Lion’s Gate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros..

It’s unclear when more high-profile partners will become part of the offering, but Google has announced that it aims to gradually open up rentals to other partners, including content providers focusing on “health and education”, and that these content providers will be able to decide the duration, pricing and local availability of their rentals.