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Movies Anywhere: Everything you need to know

The streaming service links together your movies from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and more, but how does it all work? We've got you covered.

movies-anywhere-iyaz

Movies Anywhere brings together some heavy hitters to put your movies in order.

Iyaz Akhtar/CNET

There's a streaming movie service called Movies Anywhere, and if you're used to having to navigate multiple apps to get to the content you own, it's almost too good to be true. It not only puts most of your purchased online movies in one place, it puts them everyplace

And now that its predecessor UltraViolet is shutting down, it's more important than ever.

Think of Movies Anywhere like a digital bridge between online video vendors. It supports the US big four -- Apple iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies and TV and Walmart's Vudu -- as well smaller vendors such as Comcast's Xfinity TVFandangoNow and Microsoft (the movies app on both Xbox and Windows 10 ($100 at Amazon)). 

Movies Anywhere is also backed by most of the major studios -- namely Disney, Universal, Sony, Fox and Warner Bros. So films produced by those studios will appear in the Movies Anywhere app, regardless of where you originally purchased them. Additionally, those films should appear in each of the services through which you've connected your accounts.

To give just one real-life example: If you bought Black Panther -- a Marvel Studios (Disney) movie -- on iTunes, and you've linked your accounts through Movies Anywhere, that same movie will then be available in the Vudu, Google Play and Amazon apps on your devices, in addition to the Movies Anywhere app itself (and all those aforementioned other services that you may be using). That means you can, for instance, get access to movies you bought on iTunes through non-Apple devices such as Roku players and Android phones, at no additional cost.

Those are the basics. Let's dive into the details.

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What services does it work with?

  • Apple iTunes 
  • Amazon 
  • Vudu 
  • Xfinity (for Xfinity TV subscribers only) 
  • Google Play Movies and TV
  • Microsoft (Xbox and Windows 10)
  • FandangoNow

That list is fairly comprehensive, with very few missing movie stores. That means you can shop at any of the stores above and get the price or format you want, regardless of which device or app you want to use to play back the movie.

Which movie studios are on board?

  • Disney 
  • Sony Pictures
  • Twentieth Century Fox 
  • Universal 
  • Warner Bros.

Movies Anywhere has some major studios on board, but it doesn't have everyone. Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM/UA are the biggest holdouts -- that means no cross-platform Godfather, Indiana Jones, Kirk and Spock, Mission Impossible, Katniss Everdeen or old-school James Bond. You may not see some independent movies supported, either. That said, Movies Anywhere is designed as an open platform, so any studio not currently on board can theoretically join later, once licensing details are ironed out.

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This is what you see when you click the "Buy" button on Movies Anywhere.

Screenshot by Iyaz Akhtar/CNET

Can I purchase directly from Movies Anywhere?

No. Movies Anywhere is essentially a front end for your film library. If you see a film you want to buy on the Movies Anywhere service, clicking the buy option will bring up a pop-up showing you which vendors have the video.

Pricing information is not displayed, however, nor does the pop-up mention if a 4K version is available at any of the services. You'll have to click through to see which is the best for you.

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Screenshot by David Katzmaier/CNET

Can I redeem digital codes from DVDs or Blu-rays via Movies Anywhere?

Yes. If you have a digital code, typically an insert inside a DVD, Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray case, you can redeem it at Movies Anywhere to add it to your personal digital library. Just hit the "Redeem" button at the top of the site to get started.

Does it include TV shows?

Nope, although some TV movies and miniseries such as the 1990 TV version of It are included in Movies Anywhere.

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Most streamers support Movies Anywhere.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What devices does it work with?

Movies Anywhere has apps available for iPhone ($650 at Best Buy), iPad ($253 at Walmart), Android, Apple TV ($169 at Walmart), Roku, Amazon Fire ($45 at eBay) tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Android TV devices. It also works on all major web browsers on Windows PCs and Macs. (See the full list of supported devices.) There are no dedicated apps for any Xbox or PlayStation consoles at the current time. But that doesn't mean the game consoles are left out in the cold -- see below.

Can I really watch movies I bought through iTunes on an Android or Roku device now?

As long as the movie is from one of the participating studios, the answer is an emphatic "yes" -- we've done it. The beauty of Movies Anywhere is that you never need to use the Movies Anywhere app after initially setting up your account. So, for instance, Xbox and PlayStation users can access all Movies Anywhere-compatible movies within the Vudu or Amazon apps on those consoles, even if they were originally purchased on iTunes. And you can watch many of your Amazon purchases in iTunes, too.

Of course, the recent announcement that AirPlay 2 is coming to many 2019 TVs (along with a full-on iTunes app for Samsung TVs) means that iTunes will finally be less of an island. But Movies Anywhere works now -- no need to wait for those new products.

Can I use Movies Anywhere if I'm not in the US?

Basically, no. Movies Anywhere is only available to residents of the US who are 13 and older. However, once registered from a US-based IP address, you should be able to then access the features internationally.

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Downloading films on Movies Anywhere is quite simple.

Iyaz Akhtar/CNET

Can I download films for offline viewing?

Yes. You can download to a maximum of eight devices and a maximum of 16 devices over a rolling 12-month period.

Do downloads expire?

Yes, in certain circumstances: If you download a file and keep that file on a device offline for 90 days, the download will expire. Additionally, if you deregister a device, downloads will expire. If you connect that device to the internet, downloads should not expire.

How many screens can I stream Movies Anywhere content at one time?

You get a maximum of four streams at one time if all viewers are watching different films. You get a maximum of two simultaneous streams of the same title per account. But again, you can watch the same movies in those other linked services (iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, Google Play and so on), which expands those limitations.

Does Movies Anywhere support 4K or HDR?

Yes. You can watch 4K and HDR movies using the Movies Anywhere app on many 4K HDR streamers and TVs (see the full list here). Note that the app currently only supports HDR10, not Dolby Vision, and that it doesn't support 4K HDR downloads.

You can also use other apps and devices, like iTunes on an Apple TV 4K or Vudu on a 4K-compatible Roku, to watch 4K and HDR movies. Some apps and devices enable you to watch in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, if the rest of your system supports it.

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iTunes on Apple TV 4K lets you watch in 4K and Dolby Vision.

Screenshot by Iyaz Akhtar/CNET

How is Movies Anywhere different from Disney Movies Anywhere?

It basically isn't! It's the same basic back-end technology of that service that's been around since 2014. Now, though, it's expanded to include movies from non-Disney studios.

How is Movies Anywhere different from UltraViolet?

It's similar to that multivendor streaming service, too, but arguably easier to use. And because Vudu was already in the UltraViolet family, any past or future disc-based movies you have with UltraViolet digital codes will be folded into Movies Anywhere (so long as they're from one of the participating studios).

In fact, UltraViolet is shutting down on July 31, in large part because Movies Anywhere does the same thing, but better. But fear not: Any movies you added via UltraViolet will be grandfathered in to the Movies Anywhere account (and any other linked services).

Are there any glitches or issues?

Since its October 2017 launch, Movies Anywhere has largely been a largely smooth experience for most CNET staff who have used it. That's probably a testament to the fact that the underlying infrastructure from Disney Movies Anywhere has already been tried and tested. Once you set it up and link the accounts, supported purchases through any linked service -- say, Amazon -- tend to appear within all of the other linked services (Vudu, iTunes and so on) within a couple of minutes or so. 

Every once in awhile, you may find a title that doesn't seem to sync (as we did with a handful in the early days of the service). If the problem persists, Movies Anywhere suggests unlinking and then relinking the service from which you purchased the title in question.

Anything else I should know?

  • Like any "free" service, Movies Anywhere -- and the supporting streaming services -- are collecting and collating data based on your usage and viewing habits. Take note of the end-user licensing agreements and permissions when you sign up and connect accounts.
  • Playback from Movies Anywhere syncs between your Movies Anywhere apps. So if you stop watching at one scene on Roku, you can pick right up on your Galaxy Note 8 ($455 at Amazon) or iPad, for instance.
  • It takes anywhere from one hour to several hours for movies to cross-propagate between services. Be patient, especially during initial setup.

Have a question not answered above? Let us know in the comments.

Originally published Oct. 16, 2017.
Update Feb. 1, 2019: Added details on the announced UltraViolet closure, along with long-term reflections on the service. 

How to get started with Movies Anywhere: Claim your five free movies and link your accounts. Here's how.