The UK Film Council has launched a search engine FindAnyFilm.com so that film buffs will be able to find when, where and how more than 30,000 movies are available, including on the internet.

The government-funded council hopes the search engine will provide legal alternatives to film piracy.

The film industry insists that downloading pirated movies is illegal, but it hasn't really offered a good, easy-to-use alternative for those who want to find legal ways to obtain movies, according to Rachel Grant, a spokeswoman at the UK Film Council.

The search engine returns hits for cinema, TV, DVD and Blu-ray sale or rental, as well as download and streaming availability. It is based on Google Search Appliance technology and aggregates data in XML (Extensible Markup Language) feed format from a number of different providers that cover over 1,200 movie sources, according to Grant.

Online availability is limited. Currently, 9.3 percent of the titles are available for download and only 2.4 percent can be streamed, compared to 68.2 percent on DVD or Blu-ray, according to statistics from the UK Film Council.

'The Dark Knight', 'Mamma Mia!' and 'Casablanca' are the top three downloadable movies, according to the site.

When users enter a title into FindAnyFilm.com it will return all the formats that the film is available in, broken down by proximity, price and popularity.

Users can then go directly to the cinema or retailer website where they can book a seat at their nearest cinema or buy the film, using the cheapest or preferred retailer, according to the UK Film Council.

The site also has an 'alert me' feature, which lets users know as soon as their chosen film, no matter how obscure, becomes available in their chosen format.

But the feature will also be used by the council to alert distributors to the fact that consumers want to be able to, for example, download one of their films, Grant said.