Free on-demand movies could be latest Craze

Craze Digital has your free movies hereHow about free kung fu and horror movies on demand without illegal downloading or buying them off that shady lady on the subway? If it gets its way, London-based Craze Digital is coming to America bearing gratis cinema, with loads of titles available on your TV within a few months or so, the company told WalletPop recently.

Viewers would be able to access Craze programming through 32-inch or larger televisions embedded with an on-demand widget that can be clicked directly into the Craze network. Craze told WalletPop that its venture is contingent upon finalizing arrangements with a major widget-portal company that has deals with TV makers such as Samsung, Sony and LG.

We'll have to wait and see, but It sounds promising, given Craze's prominence in YouTube online movie distribution. Craze generates revenue by digital servicing and attaching advertising to the content.

"That's the model that has worked for the last 50 years of television," Sam Kleinman, Craze's managing director, told WalletPop at the recent Cannes Film Festival, where Craze promoted its wares in the Cannes Market (Marche du Film). "You cannot fight piracy. The movie industry will have to offer movies for free with advertising."

Craze's online distribution already has begun, with 60 films available on YouTube as of June 2, including the recently-added "Zombie Wars." The viewing model is similar to what Craze plans on television -- a commercial preceding the video.

Granted, you're going to have to have particular tastes if Craze's current catalog is any indication. Lots of martial arts, fright flicks and kids animation, plus obscure titles with actors who later hit it big. Ever hear of 1987's "Hangmen"? Probably not. But you might recognize its female lead: Academy Award-winner Sandra Bullock.

Kleinman hopes to gradually increase Craze's inventory to thousands. Craze began in 2003 as a digital distributor of music and music videos before expanding into movies.

"We want to be one of the leaders in the world of 360-degree distribution," Kleinman said. "We will give you every possible way to see the content, mostly for free."

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