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Hollywood tries again to shine light on UltraViolet

The film studios' initiative to seed the cloud with movies hasn't caught on yet with consumers. So the push is on to tweak the offering and generate some demand.

A shot of actress Noomi Rapace from the film 'Prometheus.'
20th Century Fox

Ultraviolet light is invisible to humans -- and similarly, it's been hard to spot the movie-locker system named UltraViolet (UV).

UV is a set of standards and specifications created by a consortium of Hollywood film studios, software and hardware companies and Web retailers. The technology is designed to create an ecosystem that enables consumers to store their films in the cloud and then access the titles with any one of scores of different UV-compatible Web-connected devices.

With DVD sales ailing, UV is supposed to entice consumers to start buying movies again. Only problem is, consumers haven't shown much interest. The reasons are varied: UV-compatible movies have trickled out; the number of UV-compatible sites and devices are few. A much-heralded relationship between UV and Wal-Mart, which agreed to store movies in customers' UV lockers provided they haul their DVD or Blu-ray discs and pay as much as $5 a disc, was a non-starter for many.

So, here we are again, with UV's backers trying to expand its profile.

In recent weeks, we've seen Paramount Pictures sign a distribution deal with Flixster that gives it non-exclusive rights to make 600 of the studios' titles available for UV. Barnes & Noble launched Nook Video, a service aimed at the book chain's tablet that will also be a UV partner. Chris Dodd, the former senator who is now chief of the Motion Picture Association of America, spoke in San Francisco last month and talked up the UV effort.

Over at News Corp-owned 20th Century Fox, the studio is launching a digital effort that gives online shoppers access to new releases sooner than in the past and for a better price. The new program co-exists with UV.

Fox announced last month that it plans to offer Ridley Scott's science-fiction thriller "Prometheus" three weeks before making the movie available on video-on-demand or disc. The movie would typically sell for $20 but will now be less than $15.

Fox was slow to offer UV movies, and Jim Gianopulos, chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, told The New York Times that was due to concern about "the workability of the locker system." Early on UV was plagued with technical glitches.

Let's hope the other studios follow Fox's lead. Consumers want earlier access to new releases, they want lower prices, and they don't want them tied to DVDs. Gianopulos told the Times that Fox would offer all of its new movies earlier and at lower prices for an indefinite time.