In a sign that movie companies want to push the future of distribution digitally, Fox recently announced that it will make digital versions of its films available for purchase up to three weeks before they show up on physical media.
The new system is an aggressive bid to revive consumers’ interest in the purchase of movies, by giving them an earlier shot at films for about $15 each, down from a purchase price that is currently about $20.
That will nibble into what has been a waiting period of roughly four months in which pictures play exclusively in theaters before their release in home entertainment formats.
But the system is less provocative than a failed experiment last year. Under that plan, Fox and others briefly offered some films for about $30 through an on-demand service just two months after their theatrical release — an effort that was quickly curtailed after theater owners cried foul.
“We felt it was a good time to take a more dramatic step,” said James N. Gianopulos, who, with Tom Rothman, is a chairman and chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment.
The struggle to revive home video sales is critical for the industry; consumer spending on entertainment delivered through discs and other formats has fallen from a peak of about $21.8 billion in 2004 to about $18.4 billion last year.
Mr. Gianopulos, who spoke by telephone, said several factors converged to make the timing right for the new initiative: the growing consumer comfort with digital purchases; an expanding base of retailers like Amazon, Google Play and Apple’s iTunes; and the potential drawing power of “Prometheus.”
Though the movie has been just a middling performer, with about $350 million at the worldwide box office, its credentials as part of the “Aliens” cycle promise heavy home viewing. It will become available to digital purchasers on Sept. 18, in advance of its Oct. 11 release on DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and video-on-demand services.
In a bit of rebranding, Fox will call its electronic sale offerings “Digital HD” or “DHD.” It is an attempt to charm viewers by putting aside a bit of industry jargon: “electronic sell-through.”