ClickStar broadband service adds studio titles

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New broadband movie outlet ClickStar has announced three home video distribution partnerships with major Hollywood studios in conjunction with its launch this week.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group will provide several hundred studio titles ranging from classic films to new day-and-date DVD releases.

"We are proud to feature many of the greatest movies ever made through these new agreements," said James Ackerman, CEO of ClickStar, the joint venture launched last year by Intel Corp. and Revelations Entertainment, the production company headed by Morgan Freeman and his business partner Lori McCreary.

Ackerman also said the company was in various stages of discussion with the other major studios and that 15 other content deals have been made with independent distributors of film entertainment and documentary companies.

He named Pennebaker Hegedus Films as one such partnership. The company, owned by filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, will supply film content to ClickStar's documentary channel. ClickStar also nabbed exclusive download rights to "Al Franken: God Spoke," directed by Nick Doob and Hegedus.

ClickStar uses Intel's new Viiv technology to hook up to a consumer's television set, and it wirelessly delivers Web video. Ackerman also touts ClickStar as an opportunity for independent films and documentaries that might not otherwise get made to find a new distribution platform.

ClickStar boasts celebrity-endorsed programming channels, including a science exploration showcase called "Our Space," hosted by Freeman; "The Golden Age of Hollywood" with Peter Bogdanovich, where the filmmaker will discuss classic films; and Jersey Docs, a docu channel run by Danny DeVito.

Movie titles include Warner Bros. Pictures' "Superman Returns," Universal Pictures' "You, Me and Dupree" and Sony Pictures' "The Da Vinci Code." Titles will be showcased throughout ClickStar's artist-created channels and the ClickStar library and will be available for purchase or rental at prices competitive with industry trends.

"ClickStar's innovative platform provides a customized and immediate home entertainment experience for consumers where they can now enjoy unprecedented access to some of our most popular movies along with exclusive artist-created content, not only for their PC, but throughout the home," said Sean Carey, executive vp digital services and distribution at Sony Pictures Entertainment. He added that the service will be provided an amount of content on par with what other players in the digital download space, such as Movielink and CinemaNow, received.

"Whether they have the exact same titles at launch is irrelevant," Carey said. "The intention is that they'll have the same selection. We want to maximize distribution. On a sell-through basis, they'll have everything."

ClickStar has received attention for its approach to releasing some independent films on the same day they debut in theaters. Its first film to challenge long-held Hollywood distribution windows is the indie title "10 Items or Less," starring Freeman. The film opened in theaters Dec. 1 and will be available Friday at www.cstar.com.

"We think that the power in releasing '10 Items or Less' is that it's a good next step in augmenting the current distribution model in the way the studios do it now," McCreary said in describing the way the windows are laid out, going from the most secure and best quality in theaters all the way down through home entertainment. "Broadband debuts really fit in between the theatrical release and DVD release."

With "10 Items," ClickStar received considerable push-back from exhibitors but was picked up by the Landmark Theatres chain, owned by 2929 Entertainment moguls Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, who also are challenging Hollywood's traditional release window structure. The indie film, which opened in 15 theaters, grossed only $70,000 by the end of its second weekend.

McCreary, who indicated that the release pattern for each film on ClickStar will be determined individually, said she wasn't concerned about the film being released theatrically only in the Landmark chain.

"I think exhibitors were nervous when TV came out -- they were nervous when home entertainment and VHS players came out," McCreary said. "Anything that challenges the current model makes people nervous, but I think that once we show that it won't have a significant impact, slowly over time the exhibitors will start to relax."

Wagner -- who sees a changing release window structure as a natural progression in the movie industry, with all the windows complementing one another without hurting the more traditional windows -- said it's about reaching as many customers as possible.

"It's about getting movies to people that would otherwise not get to see them," Wagner said. "That, to me, is the thread that runs throughout what we're doing. The whole goal is to increase the pie and share it."

ClickStar originally was scheduled to launch Dec. 1, but Ackerman -- citing the desire to conduct extra "stress tests" on the service as well as the opportunity to launch with word of the studio deals -- opted for a date closer to Friday, when "Items" becomes available on the site.
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