Sundance films coming soon to YouTube

Those of us feeling sad to be stuck at home during the Sundance Film Festival yet again this year will be relieved to hear that our distance from Park City is a diminishing disadvantage. Today’s news? Audiences across the United States can view three Sundance feature films on their very own computers even before they screen for Festival audiences, thanks to a deal Sundance has forged with YouTube.

Starting this Friday, Sundance and YouTube will make three films from this year’s Festival available for video-on-demand rental online: Michael Mohan’s ONE TOO MANY MORNINGS, Todd and Brad Barnes’ HOMEWRECKER, and Linas Philips’ BASS ACKWARDS. YouTube will also be offering VOD online rentals of films from last year’s Festival: Tze Chun’s CHILDREN OF INVENTION and Louie Psihoyos’ THE COVE. The movies will be available only for the duration of the Festival, which runs January 21-31. A three-day rental will cost $3.99.

The move marks YouTube’s first major test of its rental service. “These are early days and in the coming weeks we’ll also invite a small group of partners across other industries, in addition to independent film, to participate in this new option,” YouTube, which is also sponsoring Sundance’s NEXT category for low-budget films, said in a blog post announcing the deal. The company notes that YouTube’s rental platform “will give our partners unprecedented control over the distribution of their work — they can decide the price of their videos and the rental duration; they can decide when and where their content is available; and they can keep 100% of their rights.”

The Festival filmmakers whose work will be featured on YouTube appear to be equally enthusiastic. “We look at this just as an extension of the festival,” HOMEWRECKER co-director Brad Barnes told the press.

“This is where film is going,” Todd Barnes added. “Who knows when it will finally take hold but we want to be there when it does. Especially if that’s now.”

Although the films won’t debut until Friday, YouTube suggests getting a head start by setting up a Google Checkout account, promising to provide detailed rental instructions soon. In the meantime, the site has posted trailers of all five films here.