ZOMG guys. This is the best thing to happen to movies since cheap digital cameras. YouTube just launched a new movie feature, which allows users to view feature films online in full for free. Brilliant! The current selection is largely composed of films without copyright claims, almost like the fare Google Books has picked up (they appear to be owned by litte-known distributors like “Film Buff” and “Ampop Films”). If major studios can get on board, YouTube could become like a new worldwide version of Netflix for online movie streaming. If more popular titles become available as rentals, the feature may become more popular than iTunes because the films are never downloaded to a user’s computer, and won’t clog up hard drives. Many features have direct links to iTunes, so that users can buy the ones they really like… But why would you pay when you could just watch them online for free? Those new-fangled laptop tablets, with less memory, would certainly be better suited to online streaming than downloading.
Most films already have tens or hundreds of thousands of views, suggesting that other YouTubers are as exited about it as I am. Home is the most popular film so far, with 5.3 million views. Its comments illustrate that many viewers are unhappy with the website’s new, larger format for video; a few said they want the site to revert to its format from two years ago. With millions of views on the new movies, however, I doubt they’ll get their wish.
Movies are organized by genre, and include foriegn cinema some viewers may not otherwise be exposed to (like the fifty or so Bollywood musicals available, or Spanish-language films). Cinema to the people! This is very exciting. The feature could be great for independent and documentary filmmakers, by giving them instant worldwide distribution.
Some elements are still not fully functional–you can’t yet search by studio, and “The Screening Room” is a blank page. The films are the same quality as Netflix’s online streaming; the older films are available in 480p, and newer ones in 720p.
Highlights include His Girl Friday, one of my favourite comedies, Night of the Living Dead, Afred Hitchcock’s Blackmail, and an animated version of Animal Farm. You can also watch a myriad of TV shows, like Skins and BBC’s version of Pride and Prejudice in its entirety. Genius! One small step for cinema, one giant step backward for illegal downloading.
I’m going to go look at the festival-favourite We Are Wizards, about obsessive Harry Potter fans.
– Katie Meyer