Diary of a Film Startup Post 19: Searching for Green Card

By Roger Jackson

Previously: New Year Update

Less of a diary post this time, more of a rumination on Hollywood, video-on-demand, and long-tail movies. Klaus and I decided to build KinoNation because we want to make it super-easy for indie filmmakers to distribute their films to the medium that is rapidly replacing DVD. Along the way we’ve come to realise there are also many well known films that remain almost impossible to watch “on demand” -- fuelling consumer frustration that can often only be solved by breaking the law.

Last week was a big day for Klaus‘s wife -- Malona had her final interview with the Feds for her Green Card. It all worked out, green card approved, and she wanted to celebrate that evening with a family viewing of the classic movie Green Card. Klaus and Malona have a pretty cool home theater setup, making it fun and easy to watch video-on-demand movies. Well, maybe not so easy in this case.

Green Card was nominated for an Oscar in 1991. It won a Golden Globe for Best Picture and Best Actor. And it grossed $30m at the box office. Surely there’s widespread consumer demand for this movie to be available to rent via video-on-demand? Certainly there was demand last week from one family in Santa Monica. Klaus started by searching Netflix. They have the DVD, but not Green Card for streaming. Next up, iTunes -- no joy. Amazon Instant Video or Amazon Prime? Nope.. Google Play, Vudu, Hulu, YouTube Movies? Not available.

It was getting late, kids becoming restless. Malona drove to the local Blockbuster store. They don’t have the Green Card DVD. No demand for it, apparently. Although there are about fifteen million people in the USA with one of these (partially green) permanent resident cards. And millions more applications pending.

So after 90 minutes of searching -- and failing -- to find a legal way to pay to watch Green Card that evening, Klaus gave up. Or rather he gave up trying to give Touchstone Pictures his money. Instead, he fired up the BitTorrent file sharing service. Found that Green Card is available for “sharing” from a dozen or so people’s hard drives. Sixteen minutes later he’d downloaded an excellent quality .AVI file, and the family were off to NYC with Gerard Depardieu and Andy MacDowell.

In this case at least, Hollywood has made it more convenient for consumers NOT to acquire movies legally. And this isn’t an isolated example. Most people don’t want the hassle and risk of illegal downloads. What they want is what has always been a big part of the KinoNation vision: Making it easy and convenient for consumers to watch any film, at any time...and to pay the content owners for the privilege.

Meanwhile...back at the ranch. Signed a distribution deal last week with Viewster, who’ve already ordered a half-dozen of the films submitted to our Private Beta. Viewster is becoming a significant player on the global VoD scene. They’re based in Switzerland, very active in the USA, Europe, Asia. And they have a great model which allows consumers to either rent a movie, or watch it for free with ads. We also just started working with SnagFilms, who are currently reviewing a package of the private beta movies. Great films continue to be submitted to us. For example, The Orator is a drama set in Samoa that won awards at the Venice Film Festival in 2011. So keep them coming -- what we’re building is now real, with more outlets every week, and getting very close to our upcoming “soft launch”.

Next Up: Post # 20: (scheduled for Tues February 5th)

Roger Jackson is a producer and the co-founder of film distribution start-up KinoNation. He was Vice President, Content for digital film pioneer iFilm.com and has produced short films in Los Angeles, documentaries in Darfur, Palestine and Bangladesh, a reality series for VH1 and one rather bad movie for FuelTV. You can reach him at roger@kinonation.com.