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In a creative approach to digital movie distribution, the world’s biggest hard-drive maker, Seagate, has teamed up with Paramount Digital Entertainment to preload portable backup hard drives with 21 movies that can be unlocked upon purchase.

Among the recent feature films to be preloaded on the Seagate FreeAgent Go portable drive is Star Trek, a recent release, as well as 20 other movies. The standard definition films take up about 50 gigabytes of the 500 gigabyte storage devices; the movies can be unlocked for between $9.99 and $14.99. The Star Trek film unlock code is free if the user registers on Paramount’s movie site.

Hoping to head off piracy, movie studios such as Paramount are trying lots of digital distribution strategies that can grow the overall consumption of movies. Paramount’s alliance with Seagate is an attempt to place movies on a device that movie fans frequently buy.

“The demographics match up,” said Malik Ducard, senior vice president of digital distribution at Paramount Digital Entertainment, a division of Paramount Pictures, which itself is owned by Viacom.

“What you get with this is instant gratification,” said Greg Falgiano, senior product manager at Seagate in Scotts Valley, Calif. “Each movie is two or three gigabytes and it would otherwise take you a long time to download those movies.”

There is an interesting mix of competition. Consumers are still buying DVD movies as well as high-definition movies on Blu-ray disks. They’re also playing their Netflix movies instantly via services such as Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network on game consoles. And they’re watching shows for free with ads on sites such as Hulu.com. On the physical media side of digital distribution, some movie companies have been releasing movies on universal serial bus drives and SD memory cards as well.

The movies on the FreeAgent Go 500GB drives can be easily unlocked with the purchase of a code. Once unlocked, they can be moved to multiple devices such as a desktop computer, laptop, or widescreen television using a separately purchased $99 FreeAgent Theater+ HD media player. The name of the game here is simplification — letting consumers enjoy their digital movies wherever they want to.

Consumers can purchase specially marked drives from Seagate.com or wherever FreeAgent Go portable hard drives are sold. The movies that will be preloaded on the drives include The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, GI Joe, Shooter, The Hunt for Red October, The Italian Job (2003 version), Ghost, Patriot Games, Beowulf, Enemy at the Gates, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Love Guru, Coach Carter, The Manchurian Candidate (2004 version), Nacho Libre, Jackass 2.5, A Plumm Summer, Carriers, Dance Flick, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Altogether, that’s 38 hours of standard definition movies on one drive.

Consumers can also download more movies from the Paramount site. Those movies are progressive downloads, so you can start watching them before the entire download is complete.

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