IMDB, TiVo move closer to distribution

Amazon.com subsid IMDB buys Without a Box

Acquisitions are already flying on the eve of the Sundance Film Festival. Yet the pacts aren’t for films but the companies connecting filmmakers with film fests and audiences.

Online entertainment authority the Internet Movie Database, a subsid of Amazon.com, has agreed to acquire Without a Box, an 8-year-old Los Angeles Web-based media shop focused on the indie film biz.

Meanwhile, TiVo has paired up with Jaman.com, an online distrib of indie and international films, in a content deal that will increase the number of pics available to subscribers of its digital video recording service.

Financial terms were not disclosed for either deal.

IMDb will gain content and Without a Box will up its resources for fest organizers and indie filmmakers.

Merger will combine an online powerhouse that draws 50 million unique visitors a month with a small but growing indie service that’s building a film community that comprises more than 150,000 filmmakers and nearly 3,000 festivals in 200 countries.

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Co-founded in 2000 by David Straus and Joe Neulight, Without a Box offers an integrated service for indie filmmakers, submitting movies online to festivals around the world and promoting them directly to moviegoers. Without a Box also provides film festival organizers with tools to manage and promote their events online.

“There are a lot of exciting opportunities we see working with Without a Box, which has a direct relation to filmmakers,” said Jack Bernstein, senior manager of IMDb.com. “Together, we provide an enhanced service for filmmakers and festival organizers and movie lovers. We will provide filmmakers who are already going through Without a Box’s submission pipeline with an expanded audience. We are excited about the promise of growth.”

Bernstein plans to invest in Without a Box’s resources, adding staff and developing technology to “find new ways to connect with filmmakers and provide both the movie lovers at Without a Box and IMDb even more expanded information.”

“The Without a Box mission was always to bring more opportunities to indie filmmakers around the world and empower them to get their films out into the world,” Straus said.

Neither Straus nor Bernstein would disclose concrete details of their planned expansion, which could push them into the online distribution arena.

Under the Jaman partnership, TiVo subs will be able, via their DVRs, to access and download thousands of the pics in the Netco’s library — including Bollywood pic “Paheli”; Sundance entry “Loverboy”; Berlin fest entry “All About Lily Chou-Chou”; and the Dardennes brothers’ “La Promesse,” which screened at Cannes and Toronto.

Service will roll out in the coming months to TiVo Series 2 and Series 3 machines and complement TiVo’s Amazon Unbox offerings. Viewers will be able to both rent and purchase films starting at $1.99, with a number of shorts and full-length films available to download for free.

“We’re making it even easier for people to discover, browse and enjoy our catalog of high-definition, edgy and award-winning films on their TVs,” said Jaman CEO Gaurav Dhillon. 

Deals come as Netflix, Apple and other companies have been experimenting with matching indie films with moviegoers online. It is unclear how Amazon Unbox, for example, may take advantage of Without a Box’s burgeoning social film community.

“This deal represents a potential distribution outlet and, over time, a meaningful one,” said United Talent Agency’s Richard Klubeck. “We see the marketing challenge of getting people to see films, especially independent films; people are not accustomed to watching films online, but they will be. There’s no certainty, but it seems highly likely that especially younger people will watch films this way.”

Without a Box will continue to work out of its Los Angeles offices, which also house subsid Film Finders. Latter was acquired in 2006 and has managed an independent film production database since 1988.

“Our mission has always been to provide film lovers around the world with the most comprehensive movie, TV and celebrity-related information,” said IMDb veepee Colin Bryar. “Working with Without a Box, we can offer our viewers even more great film-related content.”