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Microsoft Movies? Maybe

4 Feb, 2002 By: Hive News

Wendigo, the first full-length independent film to be released to theaters using Microsoft Windows Media, will make its debut in the new format March 1 in two markets.

ContentFilm and Magnolia Pictures are distributing Wendigo using a preview of the upcoming version of Windows Media Audio and Video technology code-named "Corona," to reduce costs associated with traditional film-based distribution while retaining the picture and sound quality that film demands.

Digital Cinema Solutions will provide infrastructure and technology services to support the Wendigo release. The first screenings using Windows Media will begin in Seattle March 1 and in Dallas March 15. The movie also is being released in traditional 35mm format in New York and Los Angeles.

"I'm very excited to be working with Microsoft and DCS on this project," said Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures. "With the quality and cost-effectiveness of the technologies they have developed, digital cinema has now moved past the gimmick stage to be a practical platform, both commercially and aesthetically, for the theatrical exhibition of quality motion pictures."

Wendigo is an award-winning film directed by Larry Fessenden and starring Erik Per Sullivan of television's "Malcolm in the Middle It won the Best Film award at the 2001 Woodstock Film Festival.

Wendigo was encoded using the audio and video technologies in Windows Media "Corona" which the makers say make it easy and inexpensive to distribute the film across a variety of media. "Corona," which enables the delivery of high-resolution video and multichannel surround sound, can take digital film beyond the Internet to open new possibilities for low-cost movie distribution at commercial theaters and other venues such as film festivals and the Web.

"Traditional film mastering and release prints are expensive and fairly inflexible," said John Schmidt, cofounder of ContentFilm. "ContentFilm is committed to a mode of digital production and distribution that will greatly reduce these costs, take advantage of ancillary online distribution and promotional outlets, and have the flexibility to respond immediately to split-second market changes. We view DCS and Microsoft Windows Media ‘Corona' as key enablers in forging this new paradigm in the business of independent film."

Windows Media Audio and Video provide new flexibility for filmmakers and distributors to deliver a great experience on screens ranging from that of the smallest wireless device to digital projection systems in cinemas, such as those being used for the Wendigo release. A beta version of Windows Media "Corona" will be available this spring.

Edward R. Pressman and John Schmidt established ContentFilm with the goal of making it the leading producer of digital feature film entertainment for distribution through emerging broadband channels and through traditional off-line channels.

Through a strategy of aggressive production, and sublicensing agreements to offset investment, the company "anticipates creating a sizable library of feature films in a relatively short period of time and establishing ContentFilm as the leading studio for digital film production," a spokesman said.

Bowles, Bill Banowsky and Pete Warzel formed Magnolia Pictures last year. Bowles served as head of Distribution for The Samuel Goldwyn Co., SVP of Acquisitions and Marketing for Miramax Film Corp. and, most recently, president of Shooting Gallery Films, where he was responsible for bringing alternatives to film consumers with the critically acclaimed Shooting Gallery Film Series. Banowsky was general counsel and EVP of AMFM Inc., the nation's largest radio broadcasting company prior to its merger with Clear Channel Communications in fall 2000. Warzel is the past president and chief operating officer of United Artists Theatre Circuit and is past chairman of the National Association of Theatre Owners.

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