Movies Not Quite Anywhere
While there are many reasons to debate the merits of physical ownership versus streaming media, I ran across a new one this morning that was so egregious, I needed to share.
Last week, a new service sprang into the world called Movies Anywhere, which lets you buy movies and watch them, well, anywhere. Regardless of the format you buy the movie in—whether disc or digital—if the purchase comes with digital rights, the movie will be added to your Movies Anywhere account so you can then view it on a phone, laptop, tablet, or TV. There’s no charge to join, and since I already had a hundred or so movies in my UltraViolet locker thanks to purchases at the Kaleidescape store, I signed up to see how the service worked.
Joining is easy, and once you link your other existing accounts like Vudu, Apple iTunes, Disney Movies Anywhere, Google Play, and Amazon Video, your library is imported and ready for viewing. I also installed the Movies Anywhere app on my Sony 4K TV—a process that was incredibly simple and fast using an onscreen 6-digit code that linked my TV to my account.
The first issue I noticed was that my new copy of Spider-Man: Homecoming didn’t appear in my library. While it was added to my Vudu account almost instantly and appeared in my Kaleidescape library within about 10 minutes, 24 hours later, it still hasn’t appeared in my Movies Anywhere library. So, for right now, Spidey is Movies Not Quite Anywhere.
As far as quality goes, it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re getting with the service. One thing is for sure—it’s not 4K. According to the company’s help page, “Movies Anywhere does not currently support 3D, 4K or HDR formats. However, eligible UHD Digital Copy codes will flow to your connected Digital Retailers, some of which support UHD.”
Regarding HD, “Movies Anywhere will automatically display the best video quality based on your device’s capabilities, supported software installed on your device, and your Internet connection speed.” The minimum Internet connection speed is 2.8 Mbps, meaning that there is some massive compression going on here. Movies seem to have Dolby Digital audio, but, again, there aren’t any specs I can find that list which movies carry which soundtracks.
But, again, this isn’t a streaming-versus-owning discussion as relates to picture or sound quality.
So this morning, my daughter Lauryn and I decided to watch an old Disney favorite, Wreck-It Ralph. Wanting to take Movies Anywhere for a spin, I pulled it up on my TV and we started watching. About 45 minutes into the movie, Lauryn noticed something. “Hey, that sign is blank. It should have said something.”
“Huh?” I said, not really paying attention to what was happening on screen.
“Yeah. Rewind it.”
So I did, and sure enough, there in the Nesquick Sand, the sign was blank (see above). “Wow, that’s weird,” I said. “I wonder if they lost the rights to show that or something . . ?”
A bit later, the same thing happened when Vanellope presented Ralph with a “medal.” The writing on the medal is the entire gag and the emotional payoff, but it’s completely missing from this version.
Now that we were aware of it, we noticed multiple instances in the movie where writing was just . . . gone.
Is this post-release tinkering à la George Lucas, some nefarious loss of licensing, or just some missing digital element? It doesn’t really matter. Since the digital version will be the one millions of people will live with and watch Anywhere, it becomes the official version that lives on—unless you own the physical copy. Then you can view Wreck-It Ralph whenever you want. Unwrecked.
Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at
@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.