Disney Movies Anywhere service launches with an unprecedented link to iTunes

Last year Apple introduced store sheet, a feature that allows developers to sell things like music and movies inside their apps without making you leave and head to iTunes. Now a new app from Disney is taking the feature a step further, allowing you to play iTunes purchases in-app as well. The first of its kind, Disney's new Movies Anywhere app not only allows you to purchase and play new Disney movies within the app, it also allows you to stream Disney content you've already purchased from iTunes without downloading it again onto your device.

As long as the app knows you've purchased the movie before, you'll be able stream it for free on your favorite iOS device or on your home computer. As you might expect, movies purchased within the app will also be available through your iTunes library to play on your iPhone or iPad without the Disney app, and can be played on your TV via Airplay. To use the app you'll need to first sign in with both your Disney and iTunes account information. Once you're logged in, it automatically brings in any Disney flicks you've purchased through iTunes previously, as well as any Disney Movie Rewards digital copies you might have redeemed from Blu-ray or DVD purchases.

The app is built using Disney's proprietary digital rights locker, KeyChest. A technology we've been hearing about for years -- and part of the reason Disney/Apple haven't joined in with Ultraviolet digital copies -- it could help Movies Anywhere stretch beyond iOS to other platforms in the future. As originally designed, it can work with any studio, DRM system or digital video store that wishes to participate, and unlock copies purchased via one storefront on any other automatically. That could include Ultraviolet shops like Vudu and Redbox Instant, or those going it alone like Amazon, Google Play and Comcast video on-demand -- not to mention other hardware platforms like Android and Roku. Of course, Disney has talked up the buy-once play-anywhere tech since 2009 and it's only now arriving on a single platform and store, so patience may be required.

The app includes over 400 Disney, Pixar and Marvel flicks. Each title also has a bit of extra content -- such as behind-the-scenes videos and director interviews -- associated with it, with some content exclusive to Disney Movies Anywhere users. Another exclusive for app users: the ability to collect Disney movie rewards points for purchases, something previously unavailable for digital purchases. The iTunes version of the store is available today, and Disney plans to expand the service to other platforms in the future. For a limited time Disney is also offering an incredible perk for downloading the app: a free digital copy of The Incredibles.

Richard Lawler also contributed to this post.