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A top-10 list shows online movie availability creeping up the charts

Last weekend, the Post's arts critics weighed in with their lists of the year's best movies, music, plays, fashion and so on--which means it's time to play another round of "can I download that movie at a legitimate site, or does Hollywood only want to sell or rent a DVD?"

Last year, this exercise yielded dismal results when I checked the availability of Ann Hornaday's top-ten flicks on DVD compared to Netflix's online streaming, Amazon's video on demand and Apple's iTunes. This year, the picture for online movie distribution looks distinctly better but still doesn't match what you'd expect from a rational, unencumbered market.

Of Ann Hornaday's top ten movies for 2009, four--"The Hurt Locker," "Up in the Air," "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," and "Where the Wild Things Are"--aren't even on DVD yet. All of the other six are available for download as both a rental and a purchase at some of those sites, which is good. None of these six titles are available for download at all of those sites, which is not so good.

"Sugar," "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" and "Star Trek" can be rented or purchased in digital form at iTunes and Amazon, but not on Netflix. Amazon has "District 9" for rent and for sale, but iTunes only sells it and Netflix doesn't offer it. Amazon also sells and rents "Humpday" online and Netflix streams it, but iTunes doesn't carry it. Finally, only Netflix has "The Baader Meinhof Complex."

That represents a major improvement from what I saw with last year's top-10-movies list, but compare it to the download availability of the albums on Post critic Chris Richards' top-10 list: Both Amazon's MP3 store and iTunes sell all 10 releases.

(Have I mentioned before that the movie industry's distribution model is just a tad complicated?)

I'll be off for the rest of the week and Monday of next week, so you're welcome to use the comments here as a thread to talk about the tech gadgets you get (or give) for the holidays.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  December 23, 2009; 5:50 AM ET
Categories:  Video  
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Happy Holiday Rob. Thanks for all the advice and info you provide. Left to our own devices, no telling what we will get into here while you are away. Have a good one.

Posted by: tbva | December 23, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I've enjoyed Netflix's streaming movies to my Mac, using Roxio's Tivo Desktop. But I pretty quickly noted these are mostly B-listed movies. It's a real find to get a movie with 3 stars!

So bravo for doing it, but we're a long way from good, even when we pay.

And many thanks to you Rob, I really enjoy reading your columns.

Posted by: chrisviking | December 23, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Yes, finding these decent movies online is a chore. I'm a fan of the Roku streaming box.

Rob, your columns and thoughts are fresh, thoughtful, and I look forward to them!

Posted by: Arlington4 | December 23, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Rob, I think "Up in the Air" came out quite recently, so it may not be fair to ding the sites for that one. Good information, though.

Posted by: jmrzx | December 23, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

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