Michael Holloway

Milwaukee Film Launches Digital Theater “Sofa Cinema”

Watch movies and support Milwaukee Film from the comfort of your couch.

By - Apr 2nd, 2020 05:36 pm
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Oriental Theatre with Milwaukee Film Signage. Photo by Alison Peterson.

Oriental Theatre with Milwaukee Film Signage. Photo by Alison Peterson.

Oriental Theatre with Milwaukee Film Signage. Photo by Alison Peterson.Like many other businesses throughout Milwaukee, The Oriental Theatre had to shut its doors to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. A sign that once informed those passing by what films were currently playing in the three-screen movie theater now reads “Go away virus, stay safe MKE.” But Milwaukee Film, the nonprofit arts organization that operates the theater, is exploring a new option for bringing the community together through film.

On Thursday, Milwaukee Film launched a virtual film portal called Sofa Cinema. Sponsored by Associated Bank, the channel is accessible via Milwaukee Film’s website. Sofa Cinema offers movie lovers the chance to experience new independent films while supporting Milwaukee’s film scene. Similar to Amazon Prime’s movie rental service, viewers can pay a fee in order to stream a curated selection of films. A portion of the rental proceeds will go benefit Milwaukee Film.

“Closing our cinema doesn’t mean closing off access to inspiring, intriguing and entertaining films,” stated Jonathan Jackson, Milwaukee Film CEO and artistic director, in a press release. “Sofa Cinema is a way for us all to experience film together, even while we’re apart.”

As of this writing, Sofa Cinema is offering three titles released between 2019 and 2020: Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson, Saint Frances and Fantastic Fungi. Rental prices currently range from $4.99 to $12, and will vary depending on decisions by each film’s distributor. Members of Milwaukee Film will be unable to use their member discounts for this same reason, but Milwaukee Film promises that it is working on member-exclusive content, offers and deals while The Oriental remains closed.

Once rented, films can be streamed an unlimited number of times for over a multi-day window (varies by film). Films will also occasionally have the option to be purchased permanently for a higher price. Milwaukee Film plans to rotate in new titles regularly, with the goal of making one-to-two new films available for stream every Friday. On April 10, Milwaukee Film will open Bacurau, a 2019 Brazilian thriller that was awarded the 2019 Cannes Jury Prize.

Sofa Cinema has been made possible through partnerships with independent film distributors such as Kino Lorber, Magnolia Pictures and Oscilloscope. These distributors and many others have made their films digitally accessible to wide audiences while profit-sharing with organizations like Milwaukee Film.

“It’s been incredible to see the industry come together to make innovations like Sofa Cinema possible,” said Jackson. “The virtual cinema is certainly not a substitute for the experience of the Oriental Theatre, but I’m excited to see our Milwaukee Film community enjoy these amazing films.” The real theater has at least one advantage – popcorn. Milwaukee Film doesn’t have a popcorn delivery service, at least not yet.

For more information on Sofa Cinema and to get started on your virtual theater experience, visit mkefilm.org/sofacinema.

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