If Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman gets his way, home viewers will enjoy premium movies delivered via the Internet this fall. Thanks to Freeman’s Santa Monica, California-based digital entertainment company, ClickStar Inc., consumers will enjoy broadband debuts of exclusive movies, as well as feature films, within weeks of their release in theaters and well in advance of their release on DVD.
A joint venture between Freeman’s production company, Revelation Entertainment, and Intel Corp., ClickStar’s first feature film, 10 Items or Less, starring Freeman and Paz Vega (Spanglish), is currently in post-production. Freeman credits Lori McCreary, his technically-savvy business partner and co-founder of Revelations Entertainment, with being the catalyst behind ClickStar. McCreary started preliminary discussions with Intel four years ago that gradually turned into a business relationship and investment opportunity.
The market for selling films online is heating up. After reacting slowly to the increase in free music services on peer-to-peer services like Kazaa, Hollywood film producers and movie studios are starting to embrace the future of digital entertainment. Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, and MGM all offer first-run films and older titles for $10 to $30 on www.movielink.com.
Actors like Danny DeVito and Tom Hanks are already lining up to participate in developing content for future films, according to James Ackerman, ClickStar’s CEO, who sees the company producing and distributing a mix of motion pictures and “A-list” independent films via the Internet over the next few years.
With Revelations and Intel as shareholders, ClickStar plans to offer the movies for a yet-to-be announced price that “recognizes the value of having a first-run movie in your home, but isn’t so expensive that it’s uneconomical,” says Ackerman.
Ackerman notes ClickStar has designed its service to be “televisual,” and of better quality than the streaming media used on many Websites today. “Most download services focus on the PC screen,” Ackerman adds. “But quality and richness of the media is a high priority, so we’re producing our films for the 50-inch screen, and then bringing that down to the [PC screen] experience.”
Kevin Corbett, vice president and general manager of Intel Digital’s home content services group in Santa Clara, California, says consumers are ready to experience high-quality, Internet-based media from home. He points to high broadband adoption rates, improvements in compression technology, and home networking options (that connect PCs to televisions and other devices), as all facilitating the introduction of first-run movies online.