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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ClickStar, Morgan Freeman, and Lori McCreary at Forbes MEET Conf

The big news from the Morgan Freeman/Lori McCreary session yesterday evening at the Forbes MEET conference was that McCreary has done a deal with Landmark Theatres for the theatrical release of “10 Items or Less” on December 1st.

Other exhibitors have been reluctant to book “10 Items,” which stars Freeman and Paz Vega, because it’ll be released just two weeks later (December 15th) on the ClickStar Web site for digital purchase or rental. McCreary said that she did the deal directly with Landmark co-owner Todd Wagner, promising him a slice of the download revenues. “If we win big on the broadband distribution business,” McCreary said, “Landmark gets a piece.” McCreary thinks that Internet sales and rentals won’t hurt theatrical box office or DVD sales, but instead “will be additive.”

McCreary also said that she thinks the current digital rental experience doesn’t work – once you start watching a movie, a clock starts ticking, and you must finish watching it within 24 hours before the file becomes unviewable. On ClickStar, she said, the window would be 72 hours.

McCreary’s mantra is a good one: “make films easier to buy than to pirate.” We’ll see, though, how good the ClickStar experience is; iTunes is obviously the game to beat, as far as ease-of-use. McCreary said that ClickStar would launch with between 400-600 titles.

“People are going to be downloading their entertainment,” Freeman said. “It’s a no-brainer. When a movie comes out, you can access it within two or three weeks of the theatrical release, store it on your entertainment PC, and watch it on your big flatscreen.” Freeman said he thought ClickStar’s Windows DRM technology would be an improvement on DVD encryption (such as it is).

Freeman said studios and exhibitors were too quick to regard new technology and new business models as a threat. “Nothing has put them out of business, and we think that nothing is going to put them out of business,” he said. “The movie experience is going to go on and on.”

Freeman also said that as more films came on to the market, priced (perhaps) more cheaply than today's DVDs and theater tix, and new options for viewing them cropped up, “the cost of making them has to go down, too.”

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