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New Apple iTunes movie features allow script searching, scene sharing

Movie studios have quietly expanded the feature set of content available on Apple's iTunes Store, allowing users to search a film's script for specific words, or select a clip and share it with others on a social networking site.

The effort has begun with Sony Pictures Entertainment, which is "quietly testing" features embedded only iTunes version of recent film releases, as noted by PaidContent.org. For example, only in the iTunes version of the film "The Other Guys" can users access a search button that allows them to input a word and find when it was said in the script, as well as pull up a link to the exact moment in the movie that the line was said.

New features can also be found in other recent Sony releases "Salt" and "Resident Evil: Afterlife." The "clip & share" function lets users take select scenes to post on a social networking site, while a playlist with songs from the movies offers users the ability to buy those tracks through iTunes.

"Mind-blowing add-ons? No, but they do represent the intent of studios like Sony, which declined comment, to offer differentiating value on digital platforms from that on DVD, where extras are often nothing more than a collection of additional short videos," the report said.

The new content comes after high-definition Blu-ray discs have offered unique additional bonus features to Internet-connected players for years. Some Blu-rays feature BD-Live content, which allows viewers to access Internet-based content not found on the disc itself, like chats with directors, games, downloadable featurettes, and quizzes.

But the new iTunes bonus content is not simply a repackaging of content available through BD-Live. According to PaidContent.org, the new capabilities found in movies like "The Other Guys" from Sony are only found on iTunes — noteworthy because Sony helped to spearhead the Blu-ray format and secure its defeat of rival HD-DVD through its integration with the PlayStation 3 gaming console.

The new features are also only available for customers who purchase the movies on iTunes, rather than renting. The new, exclusive content helps to differentiate full-fledge purchases from rentals, in an attempt to give users more value for the higher price associated with a purchase.

The changes to promote purchases over rentals come as one recent report indicated that Apple's iTunes has seen tremendous growth in its digital rental business. Analyst Brian Marshall with Gleacher & Company said last week he believes that 75 percent of movie viewings through iTunes are rentals, with an average selling price of $2.99. That means just 25 percent of movie viewers on iTunes opt to purchase their film.

Apple has also pushed the renting of movies and TV shows through its new streaming-centric Apple TV, priced at just $99. That device went on to sell more than 1 million units in three months of availability.