SUN VALLEY, Idaho -- Actor Morgan Freeman and chip-making giant Intel Corp. are teaming up on a new venture to distribute premium movies to consumers over the Internet before the films become available on DVD.
Freeman and Intel executives revealed the digital entertainment company yesterday at an annual retreat for chief executives of top media companies.
Intel is investing an unspecified amount of money in the venture, ClickStar Inc. It was formed by Revelations Entertainment, a company Freeman created in 1996 with producer Lori McCreary.
Hollywood has been reluctant to offer digitized movies directly to consumers over the Internet, fearful of suffering a similar fate as the music industry, which has been hit hard by piracy enabled by file-swapping services.
Freeman said his deal with Intel should avoid those pitfalls by giving customers a ''simple, easy, and attractive" alternative to piracy.
''We're going to bypass what the music industry had to come up with, and that's to get ahead of the whole piracy thing," Freeman told reporters after making his presentation, which was closed to the press.
Few other concrete details were provided by Freeman and Intel officials about the company. However, they did say that ClickStar will be led by former Sony Pictures executive Nizar Allibhoy.
ClickStar has had discussions with major studios and producers about its plans, but no studios have agreed yet to distribute films over the new service.
Hollywood studios have offered major films over the Internet for more than a year now through Movielink, a joint venture of five studios, and CinemaNow.
Those services have yet to catch fire with the public, in part because the films are delivered over the Internet. The services also have a limited choice of back titles.
Studios such as Warner Bros., Sony, and others are planning their own Internet and video-on-demand offerings, some of which may debut by the end of this year.
Intel spokesman Bill Calder said that Intel had been working for several years with Freeman, setting up ''digital home" technology in his studio and doing a long-range wireless demonstration at the Sundance Film Festival.
''It fits into our whole digital home strategy," Calder said of the investment.
''One of the things we've always said is content is key."
In order for people to want multimedia PCs connected to TVs through home entertainment centers, film producers must provide high-quality films for download over the Internet -- sometimes even on the day of their theatrical release.