Forget loading up the car with the kids and driving to the movie theater, or even waiting for movies to show up in the mail. Watching a newly released movie may soon be as easy as touching a button.
To watch Joel Siegel's interview with Morgan Freeman, tune into 'Popcorn' on ABC News Now at 8:35p/ET
In an effort to meet the growing demand for entertainment available through digital platforms, Morgan Freeman's production company and the Intel Corp. have teamed to form Clickstar Inc. The company's goal is to make films available for download just days after their theatrical release.
Freeman's new film, "10 Items or Less," will be available a mere two weeks after it hits the box office. This is the first in a series of releases that Freeman and his production company have planned.
In an interview with ABC's film critic Joel Siegel, an enthusiastic Freeman raved about how online movie services such as Clickstar could transform the way we collect media.
"Instead of wasting shelf space, home viewers will have a large library collection on their computer. One day this will replace DVDs, videos and TiVo entirely," Freeman told Siegel.
Freeman and his family reside in Clarksdale, Miss., a town that doesn't always get small, independent films. Freeman told Siegel that digital downloading will allow people living in more remote areas of the country to view films that wouldn't normally be available to them.
Others have also experimented with simultaneous releases in the past. Last year Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh released "Bubble" across three platforms over a five-day period.
While the digital download of films may open doors for home viewers, theater owners worry it could affect how many people pass through their doors. John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, said NATO strongly opposes the idea of simultaneous release.
"Our members are supportive of ancillary distribution of movies. When new technologies are used to expose films to new consumers, it's good for everyone, but simultaneous release really shrinks the pie," he said.
The current time frame for legal Internet distribution of films is slightly more than four months, a lag that has helped the cinematic industry to expand at a healthy rate.
"Their [Clickstar's] technologies are great and very useful for movies, but we just think they have the wrong business model in how they are releasing their picture," said Fithian.
NATO has been extremely vocal about maintaining the current window for ancillary releases.
Fierce opposition also comes from Hollywood. Dozens of studio executives and directors have publicly spoken out against abbreviating the time between box office, DVD and Internet release.
Director M. Night Shamilyan told the Los Angeles Times last October, "If I can't make movies for theaters, I don't want to make movies. I hope [simultaneous release] is a very bad idea that goes away."
Despite advances in media and technology, the only development that has damaged cinema has been the advent of television. "We have gradually grown despite DVDs, VOD [video on demand] and Internet downloads," said Fithian.
As home technology develops, so does the theater experience, with an increasing number of cinemas switching to digital production facilities that allow for a high-definition and better-sounding experience than before.
"Nothing will replace movie theaters, the social experience and the popcorn," Freeman told Siegel.
Brian Cooley, CNET's editor-at large, predicts Clickstar and other movie downloading sites such as Movielink.com are on track for the future. "The DVD is starting to become antiquated," he said. "Once you have a fast enough connection, there is no reason to have your huge collection of DVDs."
That fast connection is coming soon, in part by the efforts of AT&T and Verizon, which are building major fiber networks that could shorten download time to just 15 to 20 minutes per movie.
Last week Wal-Mart announced it plans to unveil a video download program early next year. Amazon and Apple already have downloads available. Netflix and Blockbuster have indicated they may also start download services. However, all would offer material that is also available in the traditional DVD format.
Cooley said the key is to keep the pricing right and keep it easy. "If rules and restrictions make it difficult, the average person will throw their hands up and drive to the theater," he said.
Meanwhile, you can "click" your way to Freeman's film starting December 15.