Digital Life

Fox extends early movie releases to Australia

Blockbuster movies are online weeks before their DVD/Blu-ray release as Fox extends its Digital HD program to Australia.

For several years the movie houses have been promising to reduce the so-called "piracy window" between when a movie appears in the cinemas and when it is available to buy. This wait is seen by some people as a key factor behind movie piracy, especially when Australians are forced to wait longer than Americans and then expected to pay more simply because they're Australian.

It remains to be seen if Fox's Digital HD release of <em>Noah</em> opens the flood gates on early legal movie downloads.
It remains to be seen if Fox's Digital HD release of Noah opens the flood gates on early legal movie downloads. 

Back in 2012, 20th Century Fox kicked off its "Digital HD" program in the US, offering movies for sale as digital downloads several weeks before you could buy them on DVD or Blu-ray. Ridley Scott's Alien prequel Prometheus was the first cab off the rank – available for download on September 18, more than three weeks before the disc hit the shelves.

Digital HD is not a great name because you could be forgiven for thinking that high-definition is the selling point, rather than the early release date. The haphazard approach to early releases, from all the movie studios, has also clouded the issue. We've seen early releases pop up on Apple's iTunes store for a while in Australia but there don't seem to be any hard and fast rules.

Digital HD is supposedly kicking off in Australia this month but 20th Century Fox has offered a handful of early releases in the past. What's changed is that EzyFlix is the first Australian retailer to officially adopt the Digital HD tag, although the movies are also available via iTunes, Google Play, Xbox Video and the Sony Entertainment Network.

EzyFlix's upcoming release schedule from various movie houses includes;

  • Sleeping Beauty - Walt Disney - online 6/08/2014 - DVD 13/08/2014
  • Batman: Assault on Arkham - Warner Brothers - online 6/08/2014 - DVD 20/08/2014
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Sony - online 7/08/2014 - DVD 14/08/2014
  • Captain America: Winter Soldier - Walt Disney - online 12/08/2014 - DVD 20/08/2014
  • Noah - 20th Century Fox - online 13/08/2014 - DVD 27/08/2014
  • The Monuments Men - 20th Century Fox - online 20/08/2014 - DVD 3/09/2014
  • Transcendence - Roadshow - online 22/08/2014 - DVD 27/08/2014
  • Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy - Walt Disney - online 5/11/2014 - DVD 12/11/2014
  • Guardians of the Galaxy - Walt Disney - online 26/11/2014 - DVD 3/12/2014

It's great to see the movie houses responding to the piracy threat by actually meeting demand rather than calling in the lawyers or offering pathetic gestures like Australia's Digital Content Guide. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact the early release approach has on piracy.

There is one interesting entry on that list, Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy, which might not be to your taste but highlights the delays which Australian movie fans still face.

The latest Tinker Bell movie came to Australian cinemas on June 26, in time for the school holidays, but at the time it was already on Netflix – which saved some Aussie parents a few bucks. Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy was released in US cinemas on February 13, came out on DVD on April 1 and hit Netflix on April 29. Admittedly it's not as popular as something like the The Lego Movie, but why did it take six weeks to come to DVD in the US and 20 weeks in Australia? Until the movie houses stop treating Australians as second-class citizens they'll always face the problem of Aussie movie fans bending and breaking the law.

Are you more likely to hand over your money for a movie thanks to early release programs like Fox's Digital HD? If not, what would it take to win you over?