Popcornflix.com: a (Free) Hulu for Big Stars, Obscure Movies

Mark Hachman - PC Magazine

Popcornflix_com, an ad-supported, free legal video-on-demand service, will officially launch on Tuesday, offering top Hollywood stars in movies you've probably never heard of.

The content will be offered by Screen Media, a distributor of independent films. The company plans to upload about 30 to 40 every week, with the goal of placing 1,000 or so on the site by year's end, according to Gary Delfiner, senior vice president of digital distribution.

Popcornflix.com is already live in beta form; a test viewing of the Martin Sheen-Sean Penn drama Judgement in Berlin did not reveal any ads yet.

Movies that are currently on the site include Homeboy, starring Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke, Loverboy, starring Kyra Sedgwick and Marisa Tomei

, and Mojave Moon, with a younger Angelina Jolie. But Screen Media films's Web site, ScreenMediaFilms.net, also features movies like Zombie Women of Satan, possibly giving an inkling of what's to come.

The service will expand internationally in the coming months, with additional distribution outlets also being made available, including web-enabled TVs, DVD players and set-top boxes, Screen Media promised.

Screen Media already legally licenses content to Apple's iTunes service and other platforms - about 30 in all, Delfiner said. "About 98 percent" of all the content on the Popcornflix.com site is supplied by Screen Media, although Delfiner said that the site will work with other distributors and independent film producers to feature their content as well.

Unlike what happened with Hulu, for example, where an ad-supported Web site has morphed into a for-pay service, Hulu Plus, amid reports that it will further evolve into a cable-like service, Delfiner promised that the Popcornflix service would remain free.

"I believe the trend is toward ad support, and that the model is revenue generating," Delfiner said. "We think it's really going to bear fruit."

Earlier this month, Fandor.com launched as a paid site for independent film, using the subscription model that has propelled Netflix to the top spot on movie streaming.