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CinemaNow showcases new site

The online spinoff of Lions Gate Entertainment unveils its new Web site with a customized version of Microsoft's Windows Media Player.

Online video-on-demand service CinemaNow said Tuesday it has relaunched its Web site with a customized version of Microsoft's Windows Media Player in a move to attract new film viewers.

The Marina Del Rey, Calif.-based company said the Windows Media Player features a bookmarking function, dubbed CinemaLater, which enables movie fans to pause a film and resume watching whenever they return to the site or film. People can choose to either watch the film again from the beginning or at the place where they left off so that a feature film can be viewed in sections.

CinemaNow said it is offering film fans the ability to change streaming speeds while a film is playing, along with full-screen viewing and full VCR functions. The company also added a film-finder function that breaks down genres of films into 12 channels so that people can better search through CinemaNow's catalog of films.

While the relaunch is CinemaNow's latest effort to capture a foothold in the online film market, analysts said it remains to be seen whether such video-on-demand services will generate a big enough audience to become a blockbuster hit.

Richard Doherty, director of research for The Envisioneering Group, a Seaford, N.Y.-based research firm, said the market for film distribution online is still on a slippery testing ground.

CinemaNow is "definitely one of the better enhancers of Windows Media technology by being able to exploit these tabs and such that allow you to pause the film and go back," Doherty said. "They're definitely trying something new. (But) it remains to be seen how attractive it might appeal to people who can only slice their week up in the 10-to-20 minute segments."

Doherty said CinemaNow's new bookmarking function is a way for the company to test whether people will want to watch segments of a film during two coffee breaks, for example, and by the end of the week, have seen the whole film. CinemaLater is an attempt by the company to go after an audience demographic of people who have a short attention span or "people (who) don't have enough time for a full meal, but they don't mind nibbling over the course of several days," Doherty said.

CinemaNow has a library of approximately 1,000 films and streams 250 feature-length films from Lions Gate Entertainment, Trimark Pictures, Tai Seng Video, Allied Artists and Salvation Films. With its free ad-supported service and its pay-per-view and subscription services, the company says it delivers approximately 2 million streams a month to more than 500,000 consumers.

Jared Goldsmith, CinemaNow's director of marketing, said the revamped Web site will offer extra links, show special features, and make it easier for customers to take full advantage of what the Internet and video-on-demand have to offer. With the relaunch, the company is aiming to attract people by changing old methods of watching movies on the Web--through a "little postage-size stamp box" or watching it over a 56K modem.

"There are the kind of viewers who have watched hundreds and thousands of films, and there are people who for the first time are dipping their toes in the water as far as watching feature films online," Goldsmith said. "We want to make it a process that works easily for (all) those people."

In May, CinemaNow announced a deal with to create a co-branded site featuring CinemaNow films. The site, launched in June, offers two or more feature-length movies for purchase every two weeks.

CinemaNow is majority-owned by Lions Gate Entertainment with investors that include Microsoft and Blockbuster.