The Venice Film Festival and Italy’s Mymovies streaming platform have devised what the streamer’s chief Gianluca Guzzo calls “a unique model.”

It’s an SVOD service called Biennale Cinema Channel that offers Italians Lido titles from past editions that never made it into local theaters and in September will also provide them with a selection of world premieres launching from Venice’s upcoming 78th edition.

It all started with Alberto Barbera’s second mandate at Venice 10 years ago, says Guzzo. Barbera wanted to give more visibility to films screening in the Horizons section dedicated to more cutting edge pics, and subsequently also to Biennale College titles, the micro budget works that Venice shepherds from development to distribution.

So Mymovies created a virtual screening room during the Venice fest with access limited to 2,500 spectators that recreated the collective cinema experience one gets in movie theaters.

Subsequently Guzzo and his team tried to collaborate with other Italian festivals with a similar on-demand virtual screening room service, but until the pandemic they struggled to get much traction. Then, when Italy went into lockdown, their online festival side boomed.

Since June 2020 Mymovies has pacted with dozens of Italian film festivals, including Turin, Trieste and Udine’s Far East Fest, setting up virtual screening rooms for them and grossing roughly €500,000 ($587,000) from sales of more than 700,000 virtual ticket sales, and 600,000 visualization hours, says Guzzo.

Then in July, Venice and Mymovies launched Biennale Cinema Channel, an SVOD service dedicated to Venice, which kicked off with an initial library of 36 titles featured in various of the fest’s sections between 2007 and 2020 that never got Italian theatrical distribution.

There are now more than 40 pics including works by name auteurs such as Atom Egoyan, Amos Gitai, Benoît Jacquot, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Carlos Reygadas and Arturo Ripstein. The SVOD service, which is available as a monthly subscription for €7.90 ($9.38) or in three-month blocks for €19.90 ($23.62), or a yearly €70 ($82.30) Euro fee, will be supplemented in September with titles screening on the 2021 festival’s Sala Web web theater during the Sept. 1-11 event.

The 23 Venice world premieres that Venice and Mymovies will soon be streaming for Italian audiences include Italian director Leonardo Di Costanzo’s out-of-competition prison drama “Ariaferma,” starring Toni Servillo and Silvio Orlando; U.S. Western “Old Henry,” directed by Potsy Ponciroli (“Still the King”), starring Stephen Dorff, Tim Blake Nelson and Trace Adkins, also screening out-of-competition; and Egyptian director Mohamed Diab’s hotly anticipated Horizons pic “Amira.” The service will also offer 15 titles bowing in the independently run Venice Days section.

Guzzo is adamant that the whole purpose of the platform is to promote films and help world premieres get theatrical play.

Guzzo also underlines that what Mymovies and Venice have set up is quite bold and makes him feel like a digital pioneer. Though there are of course many other fests around the world that have gone online. But “a festival that combines an SVOD service that streams films from past editions, and then during the actual festival offers fresh world premieres to subscribers, that is unique,” he claims.