HandMade hanging promotion on 'Withnail'


LONDON -- Cult British comedy classic "Withnail and I," written and directed by Bruce Robinson, is at the heart of an initiative to encourage people to watch movies here in the growing digital age.

The comedy, about two out-of-work actors struggling with unemployment and a lack of auditions, offers a reward to Web users who register and encourage five friends to sign up to the startup Web portal www.handmadefilmsonline.com.

It's the carrot being used by HandMade Films, listed here on the Alternative Investment Market, to attract users to its fully interactive movie portal, set to launch in the summer.

The movie production, finance and sales company has joined forces with video streaming tech company Vividas Group, also listed on AIM, to set up and operate the Web site.

The site aims to enable viewers to watch films from HandMade's extensive catalog, which also includes "Time Bandits" and "The Long Good Friday." The parties said the Web site will also play host to "premieres of newly released feature films."

At launch, HandMade Films is giving away a free viewing of the short film "Always Crashing the Same Car," which stars "Withnail's" Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann.

Viewers who register and encourage five friends to do the same will receive a gift certificate to watch "Withnail" when the full site launches.

This project is part of an emerging trend of filmmakers going straight to the Web as the online entertainment market continues to experience growth.

The two organizations have teamed to bring "Withnail" and six other titles, including "Brief Encounter" and the original "The Wicker Man," back to theaters as digital presentations.

From July 31-Sept. 11, the digitized prints will be rolled out as part of the "Summer of British Film" via the Council's Digital Screen Network in 136 theaters for seven weeks.