On with the show?

If you're an avid surfer, you'll probably know that movie studios have recently begun licensing some of their films for distribution online. The big question for users here however is whether these flicks are available to pay for and download in the Middle East. Windows Investigates...

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By  Matthew Wade Published  September 4, 2007

Wippit subscribers - ie those who pay for and use the audio download service too - get discounted prices on movies, plus the occasional film is available to these subscribers for free.

An example price is 12.99 British pounds ($26) for the standard version of the Coen brothers' Big Lebowski, which falls to 10.99 ($22) for Wippit subscribers.

Available in the Middle East?
Normally it would appear yes, however movies weren't available at the time of writing (due to a ‘server changeover' taking place), leaving you with just the thousands upon thousands of audio tracks and ring tones.

Windows verdict
Come back to this one. It's easy to navigate, has a fair selection of movies, and its country versions are numerous. (Right now, its audio track downloads do work.)

www.empiremoviedownloads.com

Based upon the now standard film download process of sign-up, download the software, and then buy and enjoy your content, this site is the download arm of popular monthly UK movie bible Empire magazine.

It also uses the same software application and billing system as Vizumi, however the difference is that this site actually has more than a few films on it.

As with many such sites, these movies are available in ‘Super High Quality' (HD quality), ‘High Quality' (VHS standard), and Portable versions (the latter is applicable to portable video players that feature the ‘playforsure' logo), plus ‘bundles' are also available. These bundles are the type of download that can be kept and played forever, whereas Windows Digital Rights Management means the other file types include licenses that determine how many times they can be played; you have 7 days to play a film, and between 24 and 48 to finish watching it.

Available in the Middle East?
No, due to the film licensing terms set by the movie studios, the service is currently only available to UK residents.

However if travelling to the UK, you will be able to download films whilst there to watch outside of the UK (providing you are within the viewing terms stated on the website). There are plans to expand the service, but the site's team wasn't able to confirm whether the Middle East would be included.

Windows verdict
Does what Vizumi should. If only it were available here.

www.eztakes.com

Concerned largely with selling classic films and vintage DVDs - from jazz documentaries to early cult horror flicks - this site claims to be the only such portal that lets you easily burn your movie downloads to recordable DVDs for watching on almost any DVD player. You can also browse its huge selection of quirky content by distributor, genre, era and price.

Available in the Middle East?
No, although the site does at least explain why, stating: "EZTakes signs distribution agreements with all film owners, or their representatives. Those agreements almost always restrict us from selling some films in some countries. We very much want to be able to sell all films in more countries; however, getting the legal rights to do so is not always within our power.

Please remember to check the EZTakes site periodically since we are always publishing more downloads that we can distribute in more countries."

Windows verdict
Quirky but only for UK fans.

www.themoviedownloads.com

www.unlimiteddownloadcenter.com

These sites - and the many others like them online - offer largely identical services to sharedmovies.com. Thus our comments and verdict are the same.

Available in the Middle East?
Yes.

www.amazon.com/unbox

Amazon Unbox features thousands of movies, TV shows and more, and downloads can be viewed on a PC, portable device or TV.

First you need the new Unbox video player, then you can browse by TV channel, movie studio, category, or genre before buying. Previews of new vids are also featured.

As with the rest of Amazon's sites, when it comes to paying you can save your CC details before enabling ‘1-Click' ordering. The Unbox player can then also be used to re-download any videos you've purchased. Currently, the Unbox video player only works on PCs running the Windows XP operating system. Prices for movie ‘rentals' are from $1.99 to 2.99, with full price ‘forever keep' downloads ranging in price, but averaging $14.99.

Available in the Middle East?
Strangely not. Strange because a friend of this writer's did manage to download a TV show a few weeks ago. The reason? This could have been down to a download priviledge error on the site that has since been corrected.

Windows verdict
Particularly depressing, as this site is one of the best right now.

In conclusion

Never has a Windows investigation produced such a depressing result!

Due to a combination of factors - movie download licensing arrangements and, in some cases, payment processing restrictions - Middle East users don't currently have a means of paying for easy-to-download and legal-to-own digital movies. This means of course that users here, if they're intent on downloading movies, have only the questionable P2P route to head down.

Does this lack of regional service depress you or are you happy with P2P? Maybe you've found a paid-for site that we've missed? Tell us on windows@itp.com.

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