When the audience decides what’s popular

If you visit Hulu’s Movies section at any given time you can view what features are most popular on the site at that point. As of this writing the list is topped by the two Ghostbusters movies, which recently were added there for a limited time, as well as a couple other big studio releases from over a decade ago. But there are also quite a few smaller, non- blockbuster movies such as The Future of Food, Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot and more.

The most popular movie on Hulu of all time (as of now) is a movie that never got a theatrical release, a movie called Strictly Sexual. It’s on the site via Cinetic Rights Management, which bought the rights and is handling distribution for the movie in a way that is designed to get it seen by audiences. And after several months of availability it’s made about 10 times what it cost to produce, a success for those involved by any measure.

It’s the sustained placement of these sorts of niche films on the “Most Popular” list, though, that is most interesting to me. Hulu is a great discovery and distribution outlet and it seems that it’s proven its value not for the viewing of Hollywood blockbusters but for the kinds of movies that people would otherwise have not have been exposed to. That’s a valuable role to fill and one that could prove important to the future of independent film.

While there are a ton of online or on-demand outlets in the marketplace right now Hulu has an advantage born of the mainstream appeal it’s gained through being a place to watch “House” and “American Dad” online. And that can translate to being a successful outlet for filmmakers who haven’t been able to sign a lucrative (or non-lucrative) theatrical release deal. The audience already knows how to use it and so, through a bit of sell-promotion by the filmmakers (who hopefully have built up on audience on Facebook, their blogs and elsewhere) bring some deserved attention to their work.

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