Mini-major makes movies available online

Landing its first major studio partner, Netcaster SightSound.com has inked a deal with Miramax Films to make 12 of the indie’s pics available for pay-per-view over the Web before the end of the year.

As part of the deal, the yet-to-be-determined pics will be available to view from Miramax-created and operated Web sites (including its Miramax Cafe location), a move that is expected to generate traffic to, and dollars for, Miramax’s online efforts.

It’s doubtful, however, that Miramax will dish up its gems “Shakespeare in Love,” “The Cider House Rules,” “Good Will Hunting” or “The English Patient” among its online offerings.

Pay-per-view fees have not been determined but will be based on the title. SightSound currently charges $3 a day to rent a pic or $20 to buy the full version via download.

“While others just talk about their future distribution methods, we applaud Miramax for being a trendsetter,” said Scott Sander, CEO and prexy of SightSound.com.

SightSound.com will encode and encrypt the selected films and process e-commerce transactions for Miramax.

Studio takes lion’s share

Agreement ensures that Miramax will retain the majority of revenues collected from the downloads. Pic will be available for download only in the U.S.

“As use of the Internet is rapidly expanding, SightSound.com has provided us with an excellent opportunity to try this new medium for distribution of our films,” Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein said.

Artisan Entertainment previously tested out SightSound’s offerings by broadcasting “Pi.” Aud counts were limited.

In March, SightSound inked a five-year deal for exclusive worldwide Internet rights to titles from the library of production company Franchise Pictures (“The Whole Nine Yards”).

Charles Layton, executive veep of the office of the co-chairman, and Bob Osher, co-prexy of production, repped Miramax in the deal, while Sander and Ari Emanuel of Endeavor repped SightSound.com.

Marriage with Endeavor could lead to the closing of similar deals in the near future, which will help boost SightSound’s value in Hollywood.

Feature futureAs opposed to iFilm or AtomFilms, which offer up short films and other programming for free, SightSound, a 5-year-old Internet company based in Mt. Lebanon, Penn., has based its business model around pay-per-view broadcasts of full-length pics.

Company is readying to bow its first inhouse production, the $3 million “Quantum Project,” on May 5. Sci-fi pic stars Stephen Dorff, Fay Masterson and John Cleese under the helm of production designer Eugenio Zanetti (“The Haunting”). Metafilmics (“What Dreams May Come”) is producing.

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