Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Movies May Soon Be a Click Away as Interest in Internet Films Rise

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Movies May Soon Be a Click Away as Interest in Internet Films Rise

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES -- Imagine a Blockbuster night without Blockbuster, a time when no video store will ever slap you with a late fee or fine you for failing to rewind. Because, in this world there are no videos, only home computers.

It's closer than you might imagine -- and closer than the video industry may want to admit.

With technology surging ahead and investors going gaga over any company with a "dot.com" to its name, interest is building in delivering rental movies over the Internet. It's already technically possible for those with fast Internet connections. One company recently offered over the Internet the brainy sci-fi film Pi for $2.95 a pop, and its upcoming slate includes the Rosanna Arquette picture Fait Accompli and the B-movie anti-classic Toxic Avenger. Internet movies for the masses must still wait for a variety of technical, economic and regulatory problems to be sorted out. The best estimates see Internet movies booming in five to 10 years But the prospect of having movies a mouse click away has already shaken up an entertainment industry that was late in recognizing the impact of music over the Internet. It has also moved society another step closer to a lifestyle bound up in the Internet and the home computer. Signs of change are everywhere, from the financial markets to studio boardrooms, even the courtroom. The high-profile lawsuit by Jeffrey Katzenberg against his former company, Walt Disney, is now focusing on Hollywood's high-tech future, with his first expert witness last week predicting tens of millions of homes will have movies-on-demand in the next decade. This is important to Katzenberg because he believes his fat incentive bonus -- the subject of the litigation -- will grow even fatter by a cut from the money Disney can make off Internet- delivered movies. Elsewhere, in Cannes, moviemakers were joined at this year's film festival by Web company executives on the prowl for product. One of them, Michael Metcalfe, recalled that when he went to the Cannes Film Festival last year "no one would really listen to me." "This year, I came back and it was just overwhelming," said Metcalfe, head of Canadian-based Global Media, which wants to deliver movies over the Internet. "The response was just, `Wow! When can we do this?'" Also in Cannes was Scott Sander, president of Sightsound.com, who went to the festival after signing what is believed to be the first licensing deal between a studio and an Internet company, acquiring the cyberspace rights to Pi. "A lot of people in the industry were really blown away by this," said Sander, noting that research found a surprising percentage of those downloading Pi were entertainment business types checking out the future. Sander believes demand for Internet movies initially will be fueled by college students, whose schools have broadband Internet connections that can download a feature-length movie in about 20 minutes and show it on a Microsoft media player. …

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