One of the frustrations of owning digital movies is the platform wars. Google, Amazon, and Apple are all trying to keep you watching movies on their platforms, so, if you own a bunch of movies on Amazon and iTunes, what you watch and where you watch it is dictated by what you own and whether one tech giant is mad at another this week. Movies Anywhere, a new app, is an attempt to solve this problem, and it works! Well, it works well enough to be a start, at least.
Movies Anywhere is basically a “unified communications” setup, supported by Fox, Paramount, Sony, Disney, and Warner Bros. You log in with Google or Facebook, then connect it to Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu, if you’ve got accounts there. Once you do that, the movies you’ve purchased from those services are under the app, and you can watch them through the Movies Anywhere app if you choose. A quick test found solid streaming rates and audio quality, making it a good option. But, impressively, it’s a two-way street. If, for example, you own a bunch of movies on Amazon, and on iTunes, once you connect them through Movies Anywhere, your libraries are matched not just on the app, but on those services. No more logging out of one service and into another to watch the movie you want!
We worked with the app and, as a launch, it’s impressive. We connected together accounts and found not just big recent releases overlapped, but also found that obscure cult movies like Night Of The Lepus and classics like 1932’s Scarface were available. We punched in a few redemption codes we had from various Blu-Rays and, sure enough, the movies popped up not just on Movies Anywhere, but on the services we linked, Google Play and Amazon, as well. We bought a movie, Drive, off of Amazon and it appeared in our Google Play library. The one annoyance here is that you can’t enter your iTunes account on anything other than an iTunes enabled device, but blame that on Apple.
That said, we found some gaps. It appears that it matters how you get the movie; we had several movies in the Google Play library we tested….OK, OK, it was two Transformers movies. Look we got them for free, OK? Anyway, those were given away as part of a smartphone promotion, and didn’t populate in the app. There were others, like Silence Of The Lambs, that also don’t pop up, possibly thanks to rights issues involving MGM’s home video back catalog. The problem, of course, is there’s just no way to know.
And, the biggest drawback on a technical level, while it supports Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast, and worked well on the older Android smartphones, on a laptop, and via a Roku we tested it on, it’d be nice if there were support for game consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One, although Movies Anywhere informed us they’re adding platforms all the time, and the overlapping libraries mean that at least you can access your movies through Amazon’s apps.
So it’s not a perfect solution. But for film nerds, it’s a fairly large stride forward. And while it doesn’t completely smooth over the gaps between services, it at least begins to address the frustration of having too many movies on too many different platforms. If nothing else, it’s worth doing just to get most of your movies in one place.