The Next Blair Witch May Be On-Demand

In an effort to kickstart the digital feature-film production and distribution market, Intertainer and Artisan Entertainment announced last week a new agreement to co-develop, produce, and distribute five feature-length motion pictures, to be shot and edited completely in the digital format. Intertainer says it will showcase the films on its entertainment "on-demand" service, and Artisan will retain domestic rights to the features.

The companies say that each of the five digital features will be produced on an average budget of $500,000, with Artisan tapping its distribution network and marketing departments for those films it chooses to release theatrically. Intertainer states that it will then distribute each feature "on demand," following the theatrical and video releases. The companies say they are currently reviewing possible scripts and treatments to put into development under the new production and distribution agreement.

The deal taps into the heritage of Intertainer principals Richard Baskin and president and co-CEO Jonathan Taplin. Baskin produced soundtracks for such groundbreaking 1970s films such as Robert Altman's Nashville and Alan Rudolph's Welcome to L.A. Taplin produced films in the independent vein from the '70s to the '90s, including Mean Streets, The Last Waltz, Until the End of the World, and To Die For.

Baskin says that Intertainer "has a groundbreaking way of delivering entertainment, and Artisan creates cutting-edge films marketed with groundbreaking new media tactics. With this deal we can take our service to the next level by making inroads with original content." Artisan President Amir Malin adds that "With The Blair Witch Project, Artisan became known as a studio that broke new ground with the marketing of films on the Internet. We are now looking to establish a leadership position in developing and producing motion-picture product in the digital form. Intertainer is a service that is on the forefront of digital distribution, and we are extremely confident they will prove to be a great partner and resource on these films, not only as a content-delivery vehicle, but also as a production partner."

Intertainer has also recently announced a deal with Microsoft to form a strategic alliance to accelerate deployment of on-demand entertainment service via consumers' PCs and TVs. The companies say they are collaborating to accelerate wide-scale deployment of Intertainer's on-demand content-aggregation service. Microsoft also announced a minority equity investment in Intertainer to help expedite widespread deployment of Intertainer's broadband service.