CinemaNowWe're guessing when CinemaNow grows up, it will want to be just like Movielink. While Movielink isn't perfect, with its heavy restrictions and limited catalog, it's far above CinemaNow. Movielink focuses on re-creating the theater experience on your PC and showcases Hollywood and independent film. CinemaNow offers many more types of content--movies, TV shows, music videos, documentaries, and even adult videos--but the catalog of movies you'd actually want to watch is quite small. Its permissions are even more restrictive than Movielink's, and it offers movies in a lower bit rate.
Like Movielink, CinemaNow works through a browser, and movies run only on Windows machines. Left-column navigation directs you to the various parts of the site. You can watch free streaming videos (lots of low-budget foreign films), buy or rent downloadable movies, purchase music videos, and rent adult content by the minute--now that's something you won't find on Movielink. You can also click any section for a list of titles, and fewer than half the movies--even new releases--have trailers you can view. With Movielink, nearly all the movies have trailers, and many also have pictures and additional scenes. Sadly, there's no way to bookmark titles you're interested in so that you can easily find them later on.
One area where CinemaNow has the advantage is price. Rentals are either $2.99 or $3.99, compared with $4 or $5 on Movielink, and purchases are mostly $15 to $20, vs. $18 to $28 on Movielink. But with its smaller selection, it doesn't seem like you're getting a bargain. CinemaNow began offering downloadable purchases the same day as Movielink, but while Movielink offers more than 300 titles from six major studios, CinemaNow offers 85 titles from only Sony, MGM, and Lions Gate. CinemaNow boasts a much bigger catalog than Movielink's--more than 4,000 titles vs. more than 1,400--but most of that is filler content, older titles available for free viewing via ad-supported streams. The service actually offers only more than 500 movies for rental. So far, CinemaNow hasn't offered any movies for purchase the same day that the movie's DVD became commercially available, as Movielink has done.
Purchased movies are yours to keep but can be watched on only one PC; Movielink purchases can usually be authorized on three computers. You can create backup DVDs, but the movies will still be in DRM-protected WMV files, so you won't be able to watch the backup DVD on a typical set-top DVD player.
You're required to watch CinemaNow rentals within 24 hours. While the site usually has a section of rental movies that will play on portable video devices (namely Portable Media Centers), it was down at the time of this writing. The list of PMC-compatible titles was mostly C-rate anyway; hopefully, CinemaNow will relaunch portable-device support with new movies. Subscription service Vongo will be compatible with PMC devices later this spring.