Disney has created the buy once, watch everywhere movie service that consumers have always wanted. The company has managed to rally support from a number of major Hollywood film studios — Paramount and Lionsgate are the major holdouts — and the end result is Movies Anywhere, a new service that promises glorious cross-platform support for (almost) all the digital movies that you’ve ever purchased. You’re no longer stuck watching a movie with just the video app from the company you bought it from.
With Movies Anywhere, your iTunes movies will now show up in Amazon Video and vice versa. Same for any movies you’ve bought from Google Play or Vudu. And all those UltraViolet movies you redeemed from codes in Blu-ray cases are now available, well, everywhere. (Except for the ones from Paramount and Lionsgate, of course.) Over 7,300 movies work with Movies Anywhere at launch, and more will be coming over time.
The service launched yesterday and ran into some early issues; the ability to link a Vudu account (where most people have their UltraViolet library) with the service was unavailable for several hours. But that problem seems to have been cleared up, as by the afternoon I was able to successfully add Vudu to my service and within a few minutes, my iTunes movie library grew substantially thanks to UltraViolet titles.
Movies Anywhere is currently available only in the United States. With that brutal disappointment out of the way for international readers, let’s look at how it all works.
Sign up for a Movies Anywhere account. This is a new service and is separate from Disney Movies Anywhere. The two do not share login credentials, so you must register to get started. Each Movies Anywhere account can have one master account and several subaccounts, each with their own parental controls (ratings restrictions, etc.) and recommendations.
Link your retailer accounts. This is the big step that brings all of your movies together, and it doesn’t take long to do. You’ll move down the list of video providers starting with Vudu. During the link process, each will ask you for permission to join your existing Vudu / Google Play / iTunes / Amazon account with your newly-created Movies Anywhere account. Choose yes, and then all of your movies (from participating studios) will be added to your Movies Anywhere library.
Once you’ve connected Movies Anywhere to each digital retailer, your movies will be available across all of them. Previous and future purchases will all automatically be added and synced without you having to do anything.
Movies Anywhere supports digital movies from all of the following studios:
- Disney (including Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, and Pixar)
- Sony Pictures
- Twentieth Century Fox
- Warner Bros.
*Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate are not currently participating.
You can watch everything in your Movies Anywhere library across many platforms and apps.
Below I’ve listed many popular devices and some of the various apps on each that you can use to watch Movies Anywhere. On platforms where it’s available, you can download the new Movies Anywhere app — but there’s nothing forcing you to do that. You’re just as free to stream content with the apps you’re already familiar with like Amazon Video, Apple’s TV app, or Google Play Movies. Watch wherever and however you want. That’s the vision that UltraViolet originally promised, but with Apple and Amazon now on board, Movies Anywhere is the thing actually delivering it.
- Android: Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, Movies Anywhere, Vudu
- Android TV: Google Play Movies, Vudu
- Apple TV: Movies Anywhere, TV app, Vudu
- Fire TV and Fire TV Stick: Amazon Video, Movies Anywhere
- iPhone and iPad: Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, TV app, Vudu)
- Mac: Google Chrome, Safari
- PlayStation 4: Amazon Video, Vudu
- Roku: Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, Movies Anywhere, Vudu
- Various Kindle Fire tablets
- Windows: Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge
- Xbox One: Amazon Video, Vudu
Movies can also be downloaded for offline viewing. If you’re watching on a living room device like a Roku, Chromecast, or Apple TV, you’ll be streaming your movies. But what if you want to watch something on a flight or during your commute? The Movies Anywhere smartphone app gives you the option to download movies so you can watch later when you’re without a Wi-Fi connection. The default download quality is standard definition, but you can choose HD if you prefer.
Other apps such as Amazon Prime Video, the TV app on iOS, and Vudu will also let you download Movies Anywhere titles for offline viewing, so you can just use those instead. That freedom of choice is another benefit of these major apps now sharing access to the same library of your purchases.
Apple appears to be upgrading some movies from other stores to 4K for free. A handful of films from my UltraViolet library including Edge of Tomorrow are showing as 4K in iTunes (and on Apple TV) despite not being originally purchased from Apple (or at 4K resolution). iTunes sees all Movies Anywhere titles as “purchased,” so it’s possible that Apple is upgrading them to 4K where possible as it does with regular purchases. The Verge reached out to both Apple and Movies Anywhere to see if this is indeed the case. A Movies Anywhere spokesperson said, “The auto upgrade of HD to 4K HDR titles on iTunes will vary studio by studio and retailer by retailer.” Still, that makes for a pretty fantastic reason to sign up.
You can stream on four different signed-in devices at the same time. But if for some reason you’re trying to watch the same movie on different devices simultaneously, you can only do that on two of them at once.
Movies Anywhere titles get perks like iTunes Extras and Amazon X-Ray (when available). Even though you might not have purchased everything in your library from Apple or Amazon, you’ll still get the cool features that are unique to those platforms when watching titles there — no matter where the original purchase happened. The Movies Anywhere app will also include some bonus content.
Each retailer app (Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu, etc.) treats these movies as “purchased” or “owned.” Pull up a store listing for any of them, and it’ll look just as though you’d bought it from that service to begin with.
Other important miscellaneous things
TV shows aren’t included. Movies Anywhere only supports... movies.
Rentals don’t work. Only full purchases or UltraViolet redemptions.
You can buy movies wherever you want (or where they’re cheapest). I just bought Once, a movie from Fox, on Amazon. And within a few minutes it showed up in my iTunes movie library. Just like that. So from here on out, you can just buy a movie wherever it’s on sale knowing it’ll find its way to your Movies Anywhere library for viewing anywhere. Just make sure it’s one from a participating studio. Again, Paramount and Lionsgate titles won’t work until those studios join in. Considering the positive reception that Movies Anywhere is getting, I’m not sure how long they can really hold out.
The Movies Anywhere app doesn’t support 4K or HDR movies, but other apps do. The main Movies Anywhere app can’t yet play 4K and HDR formats. But they’ll work fine elsewhere. “You can play back at that resolution with any linked participating retailer that supports 4K playback.” So if you’ve bought a 4K HDR movie from Apple (or get a free upgrade as mentioned above), it’ll play back at maximum quality on the Apple TV 4K — and potentially other set-top boxes that support 4K. That’s another reason to stick with the apps you’re already using.
Movies won’t play at all if your computer is hooked up an external monitor that’s not HDCP compliant. I ran into this when testing the service on the monitor at my desk. If the necessary HDCP support isn’t there, you’ll get an error message about it after hitting play.
You can redeem digital codes directly through Movies Anywhere. There’s no longer any need to use Vudu or another UltraViolet app.
You should probably opt out of (some) nosy viewing data sharing. When you first set up your account, you might have clicked through a few things that gave Movies Anywhere permission to share a bunch of your data and viewing habits with its video partners and film studios. You can actually go back and uncheck those by going to More and Video Data Sharing. Disney notes that it will end up sharing some info with partners regardless, but at least you can limit the amount.