Today in Apple history: iTunes puts the hurt on DVDs

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iTunes movie
iTunes getting day-and-date releases for new movies was a big deal.
Photo: Apple

May 1: Today in Apple history: iTunes begins selling digital movies on same day as DVD release May 1, 2008: The iTunes Store takes a gigantic step toward cinematic relevancy, selling new movies on the day of their DVD releases for the very first time.

“We’re thrilled to bring iTunes Store customers new films for purchase day-and-date with the DVD release,” says Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes, in a press release. “We think movie fans will love being able to buy their favorites from major and independent studios.”

Movies out that week include Cloverfield, Juno, Alvin and the Chipmunks and American Gangster.

iTunes Store legitimizes digital distribution

Syncing iTunes and DVD movie releases addressed one of the few problems digital distribution still faced when compared to physical media in the early years of the 21st century. With the delay now a thing of the past, iTunes sold new movies for $14.99 each. Older catalog titles cost $9.99. Initially, the deal only applied to the United States, although it later expanded to other countries.

While it seems like a footnote in tech history today, at the time it was a big deal. The iTunes Store was only five years old, having first opened its digital doors in April 2003.

The ability to download videos through iTunes came in October 2005 with the launch of iTunes 6.0. At first, Apple offered just a few thousand music videos, Pixar short films, and a selection of hit TV shows for $1.99 each. It later expanded to offer movies. With the May 2008 announcement, it caught up with DVDs in terms of offering the latest blockbusters.

iTunes movie sales come of age

With YouTube still in its infancy, and Netflix still known predominantly for mailing out rental DVDs rather than streaming, the iTunes Store’s big move marked an important milestone in legitimizing digital distribution.

It also once again ensured that Apple existed on the cutting edge of technology and culture. In the early 2000s, Apple made a name for itself as a video provider by building the place to download the latest movie trailers in the highest possible quality. Being able to promise the same thing for the newest movies further fueled Apple’s Hollywood ambitions.

Today, Apple has gone one step further. Apple TV+ showcases Apple’s goals when it comes to original content. It’s no Netflix beater just yet, but that’s definitely the direction Cupertino would like to see it go in.

What was the first movie you downloaded from iTunes? Leave your comments below.