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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Web Filmmakers to Take Quantum Leap




LOS ANGELES -- In a sign of growing interest in the Internet as a way of distributing movies, the company that produced "What Dreams May Come" has agreed to produce a film that will be initially released through the web.


While many films are available on the Internet, backers of this project said it represented one of the first times that a movie by an established filmmaker was being made specifically for initial Internet distribution.


The movie is being made by Metafilmics, a four-year-old company that specializes in entertainment with spiritual themes. Its first theatrical movie, last year's "What Dreams May Come," starred Robin Williams and won an Academy Award for best visual effects. The Internet movie, called "The Quantum Project," will be about a physicist who has a mystical experience and will be directed by Francis Glebas, the director of "Fantasia 2000," a forthcoming movie from Walt Disney Co.


Barnet Bain, a co-founder of Metafilmics, said the company was interested in the new artistic possibilities presented by the Internet and by the chance to be its own distributor.


"It's just the most glorious opportunity to have an extremely new canvas and be among the first to do it," Bain said. But he conceded that the company was hedging its bets: The $3 million budget is tiny by Hollywood standards. "It's important that we stretch ourselves but not sink the ship," he said.


The movie will be distributed by Sightsound.com, a web site that will charge a fee to people who want to download the movie, probably a few dollars for someone who wants access to the movie for, say, one to five days. An actual purchase would be more expensive.


"The Quantum Project" is scheduled to be available next May and will rely heavily on computer-generated animation, even though it will be a live-action film. It will be more than 40 minutes long but perhaps not as long as a full-length feature to minimize downloading time, Bain said.


Sightsound.com is one of several start-ups trying to offer movies over the Internet and generating interest in the movie business.


Another company, Atomfilms, which specializes in short films, has attracted investments from Warner Brothers, Allen & Co., the media industry investment banking company, and Frank Biondi, the former chief executive of Universal Studios.


Hollywood studios are watching warily, anxious to make sure they do not lose control of distribution, as record companies have to some extent. Indeed, pirated films like the recent "Star Wars: Episode I f The Phantom Menace" are now available over the Internet.


So far, however, most of the movies legally available online tend to be older movies, or B movies, or those made by small filmmakers who lack other means of distribution. The mainstream Hollywood studios have used the Internet to publicize films, not to distribute them. The value of the Internet for publicity was made clear with the runaway success of "The Blair Witch Project," a small-budget picture that has become a smash hit because of excitement built up through a web site.