King Kong swings in with first download-to-own movie

Just as we were celebrating the news of a high-def World Cup [story here], Universal Pictures UK drops another tech bombshell in our lap: it’s launchi

Just as we were celebrating the news of a high-def World Cup [story here], Universal Pictures UK drops another tech bombshell in our lap: it’s launching the nation’s first proper movie download service.

First up is King Kong (pictured), which’ll be ready to download to your (Windows) PC next month. Arriving alongside it on the 10th April will be a movie armada of 34 other titles, including decent stuff such as the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice and some dross in the form of game-to-movie adaptation, Doom.

Unlike previous movie download affairs in the UK – we’re thinking Sky By Broadband and AOL’s Film Downloads – Universal will be offering films to own permanently. Yep, just like music you’d buy from iTunes.

The catch is that you can’t buy the download without the DVD. £20 will net you the DVD of, say, King Kong, plus two Windows Media Videos - one hi-res version for your desktop and another low-res job for a portable player. Anything with Plays For Sure Video Download support, such as the excellent Creative Zen Vision:M, will be able to play the portable movies.

Downloads’ll take around two to four hours on a 1 meg broadband connection, but should be much faster on zippier ones like the Be 24Mbps connection we’re testing and currently enjoying 10Mbps speeds from.

If all goes to plan, Universal’ll expand its library to encompass its 6,500-strong back catagloue, charging £20 for new movies and £10 for oldies.

The move’s a big poke in the eye for Apple, which still hasn’t released any TV shows or movies on its UK iTunes Music Store. Suddenly, owners of Windows Media video jukeboxes look like they may have backed the right horse, especially with the BBC planning to deliver its shows as WMV this autumn.

To get a piece of Kong, go to www.lovefilm.com and sign up on the 10th.

5.20PM update: As AOL's quite rightly pointed out, Lovefilm powers AOL Film Downloads, so you'll also be able to get Universal's flicks at www.aol.co.uk/film/downloads.

Related stories:

Amazon cooking up movie downloads?

Sky springs free movie downloads