There’s good news and bad news for fans of Pulp Fiction and other Miramax hits: The good news is that hit movies from the former indie studio will soon be available on Blu-ray, as well as through online video services like iTunes (s AAPL) and Amazon (s AMZN) Video on Demand. But fans waiting for Miramax titles to be available as part of their Netflix (s NFLX) streaming subscription will be left behind — at least for now.
Miramax announced today that it has struck a deal with Lionsgate (s LGF) to distribute 550 titles from its library of film content for home entertainment. That includes the sale of DVD and Blu-ray discs both in the U.S. and internationally, in addition to online sales and rentals.
For movie fans of a certain age, the release of Pulp Fiction on iTunes might be like finally being able to digitally purchase and download The White Album for the first time. Sure, some fans might have the movie on DVD — or even VHS — but they haven’t been able to download the film online without pirating it.
It’s not just iTunes that will have digital versions of Miramax movies; we can expect Amazon VOD, Vudu (s WMT) and Best Buy’s (s BBY) CinemaNow service to make Pulp Fiction, Fargo, Shakespeare in Love and other Miramax hits available online and on Internet-enabled TVs and other connected devices. Miramax films might even find their way onto YouTube through the deal, since Lionsgate is one of the few studios to have made its movies available for rent on the Google-owned (s GOOG) online video site.
But the deal doesn’t include licensing rights for cable or online subscription services, meaning Miramax titles won’t be showing up on Netflix or as part of Amazon’s rumored subscription video service anytime soon. Some Lionsgate films are made available on Netflix through the studio’s partnership — in premium cable network Epix — with Paramount (s VIA) and MGM. Netflix recently made a deal worth nearly $1 billion to make Epix streaming content available to its subscribers for five years, but Miramax won’t be part of that package.
Instead, the studio has retained the right to negotiate its own deal with Netflix or other suitors for digital subscription services. Based on Netflix’s track record of writing big checks to content owners, the potential windfall for Miramax could be huge. Of course, Netflix isn’t the only one reportedly interested in Miramax content; the Wall Street Journal reported (s nws) late last year that Google was also interested in adding the Miramax library to its content offerings.
While we’re excited about the online possibilities for viewing “classic” Miramax content, CEO Mike Lang wrote in a blog post today that he’s bullish on the home entertainment space, due in part to a “renewed interest in Blu-ray.” Lang also noted that making movies available through a digital locker — like the one the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) is pushing with its Ultraviolet framework — can help “revitalize the industry.” He writes:
We all need to fully embrace the opportunity for consumers to BUY both physical and digital content for their libraries — and enjoy them when and where they choose. And let’s make the purchase transaction as easy as possible, across multiple platforms and at a good price value.
We’re skeptical that consumers have much interest in owning content, especially online, as Internet VOD revenues are quickly gaining on digital sell-through. But if anyone has content that people are willing to buy and own, it’s probably Miramax, which was at the top of its game during the ’90s indie film revolution. For some people, being able to own a copy of Pulp Fiction and stream it anytime, anywhere from the cloud would be incredibly cool.
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