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DISNEY PUSHING FILM DOWNLOADS.

Byline: Greg Hernandez Staff Writer

The Oscar-winning musical ``Chicago'' and Martin Scorsese's epic ``Gangs of New York'' are among the titles available on the Internet either now or in the coming weeks as part of a deal announced Monday between The Walt Disney Co. and CinemaNow.

Disney's Buena Vista Pay Television Inc. division has agreed to begin offering new and classic films from the Disney library for download off of the CinemaNow Web site starting this week.

The deal is seen as a sign that legitimate movie downloading continues to make inroads in an industry concerned about the illegal copying and distribution of its movies. The film studios are determined to avoid the same piracy problems that have plagued the music industry and contributed to slumping CD sales.

``The Internet is now starting to realize its potential as a legitimate, revenue-generating distribution platform for entertainment and media content,'' said CinemaNow Executive Vice President Bruce Eisen. ``We are thrilled to offer our growing customer bases the high-caliber films that Disney is recognized for.''

Eisen said the deal represented Disney's commitment to taking advantage of the video-on-demand format, which he said is poised for explosive growth in the coming years.

New release titles like ``Chicago,'' bowing Oct. 3, will be made available the same day as they are available on traditional pay-per-view outlets. ``Gangs'' and the Jackie Chang-Owen Wilson comedy ``Shanghai Knights'' are already being offered, and additional library titles will be announced at a future date.

``The advent of digital technology has provided new ways for us to offer our consumers faster and more direct access to the movies they want to watch,'' said Disney's Dan Cohen, senior vice president and general manager of Buena Vista Pay Television.

The films will be from Disney's various movie banners and affiliated film companies, including Walt Disney Pictures, Miramax Films, Touchstone Pictures, and Dimension Films.

Media analyst David Joyce said that, while video-on-demand is probably a few years away from really hitting its stride and having any kind of impact on the movie rental market, it was wise for Disney to get involved now.

``Disney has to take video-on-demand by the horns,'' said Joyce, an analyst with Guzan and Associates in Miami. ``It can't be reactive. It has to be proactive.''

Disney is the latest in a growing list of content providers to partner with CinemaNow. The others include 20th Century Fox, MGM and Warner Bros.

Greg Hernandez, (818) 713-3758

greg.hernandez(at)dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 16, 2003
Words:411
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