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Before an Orson Welles can emerge on the iPad, the fledgling medium of tablet computing will have to settle on a way to present feature films.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the pioneering film director Welles was referenced by Time Magazine managing editor Richard Stengel as an auteur who in 1930s understood the potential of movies as more than just filmed stage plays. Seventy five years later, all traditional media industries are re-inventing themselves for a 9.7-inch screen.
The opening scenes for the film industry revolve around how movies will be distributed to the new device.
"Our solution is streaming as opposed to downloading," said Daren Tsui, co-founder and CEO of mSpot, which this week submitted a new film streaming application to Apple which the company hopes will be available in the App Store before the April 3 release of the iPad. "Streaming comes even more into play on the iPad and other tablet devices because you don't have to consume (space on your hard drive)".
Earlier this year, Tsui's company released the mSpot Horror Movies iPhone app. The $3.99 application was a beta of sorts, and more than anything informed the company on how Apple would respond to the streaming of full-length feature films via a third party. Although mSpot's $4.99 per movie rental fee and $9.99 monthly subscriptions theoretically competes with iTunes' film store, to date the company has not encountered any resistance from Apple.
"We used that application to figure everything out," said Tsui, who has linked up distribution deals with most of the major Hollywood studios. "The next app will be a full-blown movie application that allows users to see the entire catalog."
Blockbuster more bullish on Android and Windows-based devices
Hoping to reemerge as a digital player in the 21st century, Blockbuster this week inked a deal to distribute its catalog of movies to the Android-powered T-Mobile HTC HD2 smartphone. The company anticipates expanding $1.99 and $3.99 (new release price) per move rental access to additional Android and windows-powered devices.
Although Blockbuster has a free iPhone app that helps consumers queue movies they're interested in and locate nearby locations, the company has no existing plans to distribute movies on iPhones or iPads.
The lack of quality control associated with streaming, says Blockbuster vice president of digital Scott Levine, is a deal-breaker for the company.
"We could stream, but I don't want our customers who get a copy of The Blind Side and see something that doesn't look perfect," he said.
With a digital distribution business predicated on downloading films to phones, Blu-rays and personal computers, Blockbuster more directly competes with iTunes.
"Downloading requires saving, which Apple won't let us do because they have their storefront platform," Levine said. "We would love to be on the iPad, but only in a way that protects are movies on the device."
As the plot lines continue to develop and there is greater understanding of the new markets afforded by the iPad, expect to see more distributors develop creative ways to obtain a foothold on the device.
"We see this a long-term opportunity to deliver content to our consumers," said Jason Rubinstein, general manager and vice president of digital media for Redbox.
To date, there have been more than a million downloads to the DVD rental company's free iPhone app. Rubinstein is anticipating an expanded market as "devices like the iPad become affordable to Redbox customers."