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Warner Bros. launching 'Dark Knight,' 'Inception' as iPhone apps

February 15, 2011 |  9:00 pm

IncepAppEdition_UnaIdea_150 Warner Bros. has found a way to jumpstart online movie sales on Apple devices in 23 countries that don't offer them through iTunes: Turn the film into an app.

The studio on Wednesday is launching "app editions" of its Christopher Nolan-directed pictures "Inception" and "The Dark Knight." Consumers with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch can at no charge download the app, which includes the first five minutes of the movie along with tie-in games, trivia, and other material. Users will then be able to access the full movie within the app for the standard iTunes price, $9.99 for "Dark Knight" and $11.99 for "Inception" in the U.S.

It's the first time that movies have been available to download on Apple's popular mobile devices outside of its iTunes Stores.

The new initiative by Warner is significant because it allows the studio to offer movies in a number of markets without waiting for Apple to launch a full digital movie store. Of the 35 countries where it will be available, 23 don't have iTunes movie downloads, including such fast-growing theatrical markets as China and Russia, along with a number of European countries including Greece, Hungary, Portugal and the Czech Republic.

"We think this is an innovative way to build a global footprint on devices that are optimized for video viewing," said Thomas Gewecke, president of digital distribution for Warner Bros.

Overseas prices range from as little as $7.99 for "The Dark Knight" in some European countries to $23.99 for "Inception" in New Zealand. In China and Russia, "Inception" costs $18.99.

That high cost is likely to have little impact on rampant piracy in the countries but could appeal to the affluent technophiles who own the Apple devices.

Apple is the biggest seller of online movies for the Hollywood studios, but the "download-to-own" business has not been growing as fast as many in the entertainment industry would like, particularly given the declines in DVD sales.

Gewecke said he was hopeful that beyond jumpstarting movie sales in new markets, the "app editions" would appeal to fans of "Inception" and "Dark Knight" because they provide additional content and can be updated.

He said the studio is already working on app editions for other films that will launch this year.

— Ben Fritz

Photo: "Inception" app edition. Credit: Warner Bros.

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