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Mubi's Big Move is Sony PlayStation 3

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 18, 2010 at 9:53AM

Mubi CEO Efe Cakarel has made a major move: partnering with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) to put the global online cinema site Mubi (nee The Auteurs) on Sony PlayStations in Europe, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand. Cakarel made the announcement at a Majestic press conference, along with Andrew House (CEO of SCEE), Hengameh Panahi (CEO of Celluloid Dreams) and director Agnès Varda. Mubi will be available on PS3s in the U.K., Ireland, France, and Germany this fall, but will not broaden to 18 more countries until spring. House says he is taking a wait and see attitude about when to launch in the U.S. and Japan. Talks are ongoing.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Mubi CEO Efe Cakarel has made a major move: partnering with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) to put the global online cinema site Mubi (nee The Auteurs) on Sony PlayStations in Europe, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand. Cakarel made the announcement at a Majestic press conference, along with Andrew House (CEO of SCEE), Hengameh Panahi (CEO of Celluloid Dreams) and director Agnès Varda. Mubi will be available on PS3s in the U.K., Ireland, France, and Germany this fall, but will not broaden to 18 more countries until spring. House says he is taking a wait and see attitude about when to launch in the U.S. and Japan. Talks are ongoing.

Consumers can download Mubi films for free with ads, pay on a PPV basis, or subscribe for unlimited access to the Mubi library. In Europe the pay-as-you-go model is 3 Euros; in the U.K., 3 pounds.

"You are opening up the world," Varda said to Cakarel on the way into the conference. The veteran French filmmaker is putting her entire oeuvre on Mubi--but admits that she (like many other fans of the site) resists the recent name change to a more global-friendly brand. Panahi insisted that Mubi will remain committed to its niche of high-quality films, and that the Auteurs label will continue to exist on the site.

For Sony, it's about broadening the identity of the PlayStation beyond kids playing videogames in their bedrooms to a more living-room-centric media system. PS3 is also a hi-def Blu-ray player and Netflix streamer. And VOD is already available on PS3s around the world, says House. Mubi becomes part of a portfolio of offerings for 35 million PlayStation users. "It's about high-quality all-round entertainment," said House. "We're showing films in the correct format on a big screen. It's a never-ending film festival in your living room. It's every best movie available on your TV, instantly."

For two-year-old Mubi, this deal opens up its 1000 curated high-quality classic, indie and foreign titles and ardent cinephile film community (300,000 and growing by two new members per minute, says Cakarel) to a wider range of consumers. Cakarel expects exponential growth into the millions within the year as people identify Mubi as a place where they can check out movie art, info and trailers, their friends' opinions, and sample film--knowing that they will be good.

Panahi knows well the vagaries of the independent sector, and sees this as a possible solution. The old model is about pushing product on audiences and telling them when, how and where to see films. Now that you can access digital files online, it's pool behavior: it's not about content but about context. "You can never legislate or litigate behavior," she said. "It's about instantaneous access rather than ownership."

Cakarel reminded that most of the films screened in Cannes will only be available to watch in five to ten key cities. "An entire new generation of people are not getting exposure to these films," he said. "It's our mission to create a new audience for wonderful movies." Mubi will also encourage filmmakers to post their own playlists.

Sony and Mubi are planning an organic, viral marketing campaign via social networks like FaceBook. A mobile strategy will follow down the line.

This article is related to: Festivals, Genres, Independents, Digital Future, Cannes


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.