Beginning tomorrow and running for seven days after that, four films debuting at the Slamdance Film Festival will be available for rental through Microsoft’s Xbox console as well as for its Zune portable device. The film’s availability comes as a result of a partnership between Slamdance and Microsoft.
The films will be available for purchase using “Microsoft Points,” the currency used on those platforms. After the initial period videos from Slamdance will continue to be available through the Zune Marketplace and through Xbox Live.
Distribution continues to be a key focus (New York Times, 1/25/10) of this year’s Sundance and Slamdance festivals. With 75 percent of the films appearing there likely to never score a deal at all – much less a lucrative one – new models are being looked for. To that end it’s great to see big companies like Microsoft and YouTube enabling some experimentation, even if the initial results from the YouTube/Sundance deal aren’t exactly earth-shattering.
Those numbers, though, are not as bad as they seem.
As I’ve stated before, the audience for a movie is never going to be bigger than it was meant to be. So movies like many of those debuting at Sun/Slam – including those that are taking part in these distribution trial programs – are going to have limited appeal regardless of platforms.
Let’s focus, then, on the fact that even if the YouTube numbers aren’t huge, the people who have watched the movies are ones who likely would not have otherwise, at least not for quite a while since who knows if they live in the three cities these films might have been distributed theatrically in.