DOWNTOWN — Downloading a movie on the go has gotten a whole lot easier thanks to a startup that has installed more than a dozen digital kiosks Downtown in recent months.
The rental service instantly downloads temporary TV and movie files onto USB sticks or handheld devices, like smartphones and tablets. New releases are $3.99 to rent, classics are $2.99, and for $14.99 users can purchase media to keep.
In most cities, Digiboo started with kiosks in airports, but in Chicago it tried a different strategy, appealing directly to daily commuters, according to company spokesman Blake Thomas.
"Our initial focus was on large office buildings in the north Loop area," he said. "We're in Willis Tower and John Hancock and the Burnham Center, and various places in the Loop ... so people coming to and from work can pick them up and watch them on the train or when they get home."
The kiosks quickly import large video files to devices via localized Wi-Fi, or by plugging into a USB port, cutting download times to 10 minutes or less by physically storing data in each multi-terabyte kiosk.
Rental stations in the Loop include locations near CTA stations at Clark/Lake, Washington/Wells, Quincy and LaSalle/Van Buren and near both Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center. Many are hosted inside Gateway Convenience stores thanks to a partnership between the franchise and Digiboo.
Nick Sheh, who manages a Gateway Convenience store in the John Hancock building, says his Digiboo kiosk was installed about six months ago, and customers come in "pretty often" to download TV shows or movies onto mobile devices.
Each rental is available for 30 days, but will vanish off users' devices 48 hours after they press play.
In the next month Digiboo plans to add six more kiosks.
Locations at O'Hare and Midway airports are on the horizon, as are kiosks at Chicago universities, Thomas said.
"Our expectations are that we start slow and build steadily ... but in Chicago the uptake has been really, surprisingly good," Thomas said of the national company based in Santa Monica, Calif. "We're expanding in Chicago ahead of our target plans because the response has been really strong."
Police and community groups have been urging commuters to keep electronics out of sight as thefts are on the rise. But Thomas said the company hasn't needed a safety contingency plan, in part because it only installs kiosks indoors.
"Once you download the movie you can tuck it away in your pocket," Thomas said. "Crime isn't a problem we've had to deal with."