VOD channel to launch Wednesday

FilmBuff, a video-on-demand channel curated by New York indie sales outfit Cinetic, will launch Wednesday.

Channel will initially be available in 10 million VOD-enabled cable households in North America, ramping up to 30 million by the end of the summer.

Cinetic topper John Sloss described FilmBuff “as if your most film-literate friend programmed your Netflix queue and it was immediately available.”

FilmBuff will offer 10-15 firstrun films and classics per month. Among the first key titles for which deals have been inked are “The Carter,” a docu about rapper Lil Wayne that bowed at Sundance earlier this year; plus the original “The Inglorious Bastards,” helmed by Enzo Castellari. “The Carter” will bow in August, and “Inglorious” is on tap when Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” rolls out on DVD.

“We’re not tethered to new releases,” said Cinetic rights management topper Matt Dentler, who oversees the channel’s movie picks. Titles will also not be limited to films repped by Cinetic.

FilmBuff’s offerings could include older studio titles ripe for reintroductionand films that complement a particular movie trend, such as the offering of the original “Bastards.”

Among the titles available on FilmBuff next week are Rob Epstein’s 1984 docu “The Times of Harvey Milk,” Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” and Michael Almereyda’s “New Orleans, Mon Amour.”

Some of these titles are already available on Cinetic digital arm CRM’s broadband destinations, including iTunes, Amazon VOD, Hulu and Netflix in the U.S. and Blinkbox in Europe.

When FilmBuff debuts next week, it joins an already growing movement of indie films bowing on VOD before or simultaneously with their theatrical release. With limited options for specialty films in the North American cinema market, VOD has increasingly been viewed as a shot at a wider — or any — audience.

IFC Films and Magnolia pioneered the indie VOD revolution with new titles; FilmBuff is Cinetic’s twist on the emerging distribution platform. “The idea behind the channel is to stretch the bounds of what VOD has been used for,” Sloss said. “To make VOD a destination for programming, not just another window. Cable VOD is a tremendous impulse medium that could be monetized in ways that it hasn’t been before.”

Pricing ranges by title and cable operator but typically falls at $2.99-$9.99 per VOD rental.

Sloss noted FilmBuff will not be acquiring rights like IFC and Magnolia do. “We are acting as an agent here,” he said, adding that the majority of FilmBuff deals will span two months and be nonexclusive.

“Our goal is to keep the costs low and to push through the revenue to the filmmakers,” he said. As a film sales agent of some 300 films since 2000, he’s been on the other side of the deal, he added. “We don’t want to make it so unreasonable and unattractive that we make our traditional sales untenable. We’re really committed to making this streamlined and transparent,” Sloss said.

CRM will charge a small fee to handle the film, and expenses would include just the unavoidables, such as encoding costs.

Down the line, Sloss and Dentler aspire for FilmBuff to be available worldwide.

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