Apple today launched a new service that allows customers to download films from the iTunes website on the same day they are released on DVD.

It is the first time Apple has offered film downloads to UK customers.

Visitors to the iTunes UK store can buy new release films for £10.99 and library titles for £6.99.

The service is backed by most of the major studios including 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, MGM, Sony Pictures Television International and Lionsgate UK.

Apple is offering more than 700 films to buy or rent, including current titles such as I Am Legend, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets and Into the Wild.

A number of services already offer films via download in the UK, but the majority have a limited catalogue and charge varied prices.

Sky and BT also have film download "stores", as does Microsoft, which rents films that can be watched via its Xbox games console for about £3.

Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of iTunes, said: "We're kicking off movies on the iTunes Store in the UK with over 700 films for purchase and rent.

"We think customers in the UK are going to love being able to enjoy their favourite movies on their iPod, iPhone or on a widescreen TV with Apple TV."

Customers who rent movies from iTunes have up to 30 days to start watching and then 48 hours to finish the film.

Rentals cost £2.49 for library titles and £3.49 for new releases, with high definition versions costing £1 more.