Alibi V.28 No.19 • May 9-15, 2019 

Idiot Box

OVID.tv

Streaming gets specialized

As distribution for movies and TV shows continues its long, slow and somewhat inevitable shift away from traditional theaters and broadcast television networks, the conversation has become increasingly dominated by major corporations. The companies driving the conversation about streaming and digital downloading (Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, Disney+) are owned by some of the largest corporate entertainment conglomerates in the world. In theory, the scope and financial backing of these companies would seem to indicate a future world in which all media is at everyone’s fingertips, 24/7. In practice, however, the opposite is true.

A whole swath of films, once widely available on the shelves of your local video store, has become harder to access in recent years. Want to watch a film owned by Disney (including Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and classic Walt Disney films)? By the end of the year, you’ll only be able to do that if you subscribe to Disney+. Use Netflix as your primary movie supplier? Here’s a sobering statistic for you: In 2010 Netflix (the 800-pound gorilla in this particular room with 55 percent of Americans using the service) had a total of 6,755 movies and 530 TV shows (according to flixable.com, a third-party Netflix search engine). By 2018 the number of TV shows—including an increasing percentage of Netflix Originals—had ballooned to 1,569. But the number of movies had shrunk to just 4,010. Want to see classic Hollywood movies or art house offerings or award-winning foreign films? Your options are slim and getting slimmer.

Thankfully, there is room in this digital revolution for smaller, more specialized content providers. The Criterion Collection—the long-lived laserdisc/VHS/DVD/Blu-ray distribution label for indie, art house and foreign films—launched its own subscription video on demand service earlier this year. (Of course, that was only after Criterion found itself adrift with the demise of FilmStruck, the short-lived Turner Classic Movies-backed SVOD service.) In March a supergroup of indie film distributors followed suit, joining forces to create OVID.tv. With luck, the service will point the way to a future that doesn’t shut out anything other than blockbuster content.

Vice president of First Run Features Marc Mauceri, president of Icarus Films Jonathan Miller and founder of Bullfrog Films John Hoskyns-Abrahall have teamed up with “founding content partners” Distrib Films US, KimStim, Grasshopper Film, Women Make Movies and dGenerate Films to form the new service. Launched on March 22, the service started with about 350 titles, 98 percent of which are documentaries.

April brought with it a new “wave” of titles, including a host of fiction features and a collection of award-winning films from China. Among the new selections: Claire Denis’ dark and violent romance Trouble Every Day starring Vincent Gallo, Heddy Honigmann’s O Amor Natural (based on the erotic poetry of Carlos Drummond de Andrade), a newly restored version of Raul Ruiz’ 1999 adaptation of Marcel Proust’s Time Regained and a documentary about Alien designer H.R. Giger. It’s an arty selection, to be sure, aimed at select cineasts. (You would expect nothing less from a company named after a 1st century Roman poet.) But if you aren’t simply in the market for a copy of Frozen to use as a digital babysitter, OVID might be just the thing to scratch your obscure movie-loving itch.

OVID.tv is currently accessible on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and various Android devices. The service costs $6.99 a month or $69.99 annually (putting it in the exact price range of Disney+).