Watching movies still in theaters may be Apple's next trick – but there’s a catch

Apple may not have the same cachet in the movie streaming biz as Netflix or Amazon, but the company may be looking to make a big push in the form of renting movies still fresh in theaters.

Major studios are in talks with the iPhone maker to bring early-access rentals of brand-new movies to iTunes, sources familiar with the matter tell Bloomberg.

Among some of the interested moviemakers mentioned in the report are 21st Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. 

Though no concrete plans have cemented yet, some executives are reported as willing to release movies to iTunes as early as two weeks after hitting theaters.

Following less-than-booming returns in home video and ticket sales, early-access renting could recoup money for studios from interest customer who just can't be bothered with a trip out to the theater on opening weekend.

On Apple's end, the deal could potentially help the iTunes service stand out considerably from the competition, which normally wait months after a movie hits theaters to get the streaming rights.

So, here's the issue...

Even if Apple - or any other company, for that matter - reaches an agreement with movie studios to rent new releases, other barriers may still come into play.

The first is price - to make up for theoretical ticket sales lost on the home market, one option under consideration would be charging premium prices. 

According to the report, these fees could range anywhere between $25 to $50 for a single home screening - suddenly you're not saving that much skipping the theaters.

The second barrier is piracy. Without the proper technology to watermark films or trace leaked copies, studios are concerned streaming brand-new movies in homes would become easy prey for bootleggers.

-will the theaters let them?

Finally, the third - and arguably, biggest - hassle are the theaters themselves. Many major moviehouses have policies about not screening films that are too close to a home release. 

The usual window between theater and home release is 90 days or longer, meaning that just a few days of exclusivity could get a film on a theater's ugly side.

This is why certain theaters refused to air Netflix's feature-length drama Beasts of No Nation, following Netflix's decision to stream the movie online the same day as its planned theater release.

This doesn't mean Apple's goal is impossible, but rather will take a lot of consideration, handshaking, and contingency measures. Considering the huge advantage iTunes could gain over other movie streaming services, that effort might be worth it. 

We're just bummed that any kind of arrangement to legally watch just-released movies at home will proooobably not happen in time for Rogue One.

Parker Wilhelm
Parker Wilhelm is a freelance writer for TechRadar. He likes to tinker in Photoshop and talk people's ears off about Persona 4.