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Can BitTorrent Be Good for Hollywood?

An indie’s marketing deal with the film industry nemesis isn’t as crazy as it sounds
Can BitTorrent Be Good for Hollywood?
Illustration by Daniel Horowitz

Before you see Colin Firth in Arthur Newman at the theater, you can watch some of it on BitTorrent. Of course, you can do that with most movies; the 170 million-plus members of the file-sharing protocol collectively pirate millions of films, TV shows, and albums. But when you open up this comedy, about a golfer who fakes his own death, you won’t have to worry about getting sued.

Firth, star of “Arthur Newman”
Jason Laveris/Filmmagic/Getty Images
Los Angeles-based film distributor Cinedigm has formed a partnership with BitTorrent to promote Arthur Newman by releasing its first seven minutes for free. Seven minutes may not be much—basically an extended trailer—but Cinedigm is hoping you’ll be so enamored of Firth’s bumbling eccentricity and his accomplice Emily Blunt’s sullen cuteness that you’ll buy a ticket to see the film in theaters. “It’s a promotional play on one of the biggest platforms,” Jill Calcaterra, the chief marketing officer at Cinedigm, wrote in an e-mail. “We’re taking the way BitTorrent has been used in the past and turning it on its head.” On YouTube, Arthur Newman’s trailer has earned fewer than 100,000 views; in its first week on BitTorrent, the seven-minute clip was downloaded more than 1 million times.