NEW YORK YouTube is adding more than 3,000 mainstream movies for users to rent starting on Monday, along with the millions of free user-created videos the popular website is best known for.
Google Inc-owned YouTube is offering a mix of recent Hollywood blockbusters, independent and foreign movies for 99 cents up to $3.99 each. These include last year's Oscar winners "The King's Speech" and "Inception" alongside classics including "Scarface" and "Taxi Driver." Most of the movies on the site are priced around $2.99.
In addition, hundreds of movies, including some offered before the latest launch, are available for free viewing as with other clips.
YouTube signed deals with major studios including Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros, Sony Corp'sJ Sony Pictures, Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures and Lions Gate Entertainment.
Once users have upgraded their YouTube accounts they can pay to watch a movie, which they have 30 days to begin viewing. Once users begin watching the movie, they typically have 24 hours to finish.
Many of the movies, which will be streamed, will be available at the same time as DVD releases.
Hollywood studios are slowly warming up to the idea of using social media not just for marketing but as a potential new distribution outlet like cable and theaters.
Warner Bros recently started experimenting with some of its popular movies on Facebook for a rental fee which could be paid with Facebook credits.
YouTube will allow users of movie rentals to share the movies on Facebook and Twitter but if the recipient clicks on the link they will see a trailer unless they have also rented the movie.
Another feature is YouTube Movie Extras, similar to DVD extras with behind-the-scenes videos, cast interviews, parodies and remixes made by YouTube users.
The new service is available only in the United States.
YouTube has spent the last couple of years redeveloping the popular site, to tweak its image as a site for grainy 2-minute clips of users' pets and kids.
The goal for YouTube is to drive more views of its videos which, in a fast-evolving Web content sector, need to offer better production values to compete against paid professional offerings from the likes of Hulu, Netflix Inc and websites CBS, Walt Disney Co's ABC and other broadcasters.