O'Hehir: The future is (almost) here

By mattdentler | Matt Dentler's Blog June 18, 2009 at 3:13AM

O'Hehir: The future is (almost) here
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For his regular Salon column, Andrew O'Hehir runs through some of the options available to consumers when it comes to watching feature films online. He test drives the various portals, and offers an opinion on the current state of broadband VOD:

Online movie delivery has exploded in the last year, at least compared to its virtual nonexistence before that. Within a few clicks from this page, you could be watching a documentary about barehanded fishing in Oklahoma, the Soviet-era magic-realist classic "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" or "Hotel for Dogs." Come September, Sally Potter's new film "Rage" will premiere as a series of episodes on Babelgum, at the same time it's released in theaters and on DVD. The Palestinian film "Laila's Birthday," an international festival favorite with no theatrical deal, was recently made available for three weeks on the Auteurs, a new cinephile streaming site that's currently in beta.

Those are just examples; I could pick dozens more. But online distribution remains an insignificant factor in the film economy (if anything, movie theaters are thriving in the current recession), and it represents a tiny proportion of the video watched on computer screens. One could argue, in fact, that feature films and the Internet are mismatched forms of media; the former demands long stretches of undivided attention while the latter thrives on multitasking, rapid response time and brief info-bursts. When was the last time you spent 90 minutes or more sitting at your computer and looking at the same thing?

Still, more and more movies are available online every month, and new modes of delivering them seem to crop up almost as fast. Last October marked a turning point of sorts.