In the age of Netflix, VOD, and online piracy, studios are still trying to figure out the best way to get consumers to actually purchase their media. And with disc sales declining and digital sales on the rise, Fox is looking to give the latter format a boost.

Fox is launching an effort to encourage online purchases by offering downloads of titles for $15 a pop weeks before they hit DVD / Blu-ray or VOD. The first movie released under the new model will be Prometheus, which will be available to download September 18 before hitting shelves in disc form on October 11. More after the jump.

Deadline and NYT reported on Fox’s “Digital HD” program today. The digital copies will be available through a number of online retailers, including Amazon, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox, and CinemaNow. The initiative also has Fox finally joining studios like Warner Bros. and Universal on the UltraViolet digital locker system, which allows consumers to play a film from any Internet-enabled device once they purchase the film.

While the program will start with Prometheus, Fox has plans to release all of its upcoming titles the same way for the forseeable future, including Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and The Watch. In addition, over 600 (presumably older) films will be offered under the Digital HD brand.

The benefits for consumers are obvious. The $15 price tag marks a discount from the previous cost of about $20 a download, to say nothing of the $40 sticker price for a typical Blu-ray. Meanwhile, offering the downloads a few weeks earlier should entice customers without pissing off theater owners, who were angered last year when Fox and others tried to make titles available on demand just two months after they hit theaters.

Fox’s initiative doesn’t change the fact that Blu-ray’s still the best choice for picture and sound quality, and it should be noted that disc purchases often come with a digital copy (or voucher/code for one) anyway. But there are some situations in which the convenience of a cheaper downloaded copy outweights the advantages of a physical disc. Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman James Gianopulos predicted that consumers would opt to go digital for comedies, for example, to facilitate repeat viewings across multiple devices, while effects-heavy epics like Avatar and even Prometheus would continue to do well on Blu-ray.

Discuss: Will you take advantage of Fox’s program, are you sticking with VOD and Blu-rays?

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