Have you, in the age of COVID-19 and a statewide “stay-at-home” order, been craving the top-shelf films usually offered by Milwaukee Film? Have you been missing the glorious Oriental Theatre? Have you already finished Tiger King? If your answers are YES!, then buckle up for Milwaukee Film’s just-announced “Sofa Cinema.” Coming to a sofa near you!

Here’s the deal: Sofa Cinema is a virtual film portal where you can “access new independent film titles, with a portion of the rental proceeds supporting Milwaukee Film.” Neat! A press release continues:

Sofa Cinema is designed to emulate the arthouse cinema experience as closely as possible, but in a virtual space. Similar to how films are programmed at the Oriental Theatre, Milwaukee Film will rotate in new titles regularly, with the goal of making one to two new films available every Friday.

So what’s on tap? Go to Sofa Cinema NOW and you can watch the documentary Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson And The Band, the 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival selection Saint Frances, and the delightful mushroom documentary Fantastic Fungi. Next week: Brazilian thriller (and 2019 Cannes Jury Prize winner) Bacurau! (No, No Country For Old Men isn’t among the selections. We just used that picture because Anton Chigurh is sitting on a sofa.)

“One of our goals with Sofa Cinema is to curate excellent films, just like we do for the Oriental Theatre and the Milwaukee Film Festival,” says Jonathan Jackson, CEO/artistic director for Milwaukee Film, in a press release. “There are a lot of streaming platforms that offer thousands upon thousands of entertainment options, but during times of crisis, we know the last thing many people need is to make another decision in a day that’s full of difficult choices.”

The films stream on different platforms (Fantastic Fungi, for instance, streams on Vimeo), and rental prices are set by the distributors. Check out the full press release below:

Milwaukee Film Launches Virtual ‘Sofa Cinema’
Nonprofit offers films through online portal during extended closure of Oriental Theatre

MILWAUKEE – Thursday, April 2, 2020 – Milwaukee Film is opening up a new channel to bring people together in film, even while the Oriental Theatre remains closed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

On Thursday, the nonprofit launched its first virtual film portal, called Sofa Cinema, proudly supported by Associated Bank. Through the Sofa Cinema page on Milwaukee Film’s website, film fans are able to access new independent film titles, with a portion of the rental proceeds supporting Milwaukee Film.

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

“One of our goals with Sofa Cinema is to curate excellent films, just like we do for the Oriental Theatre and the Milwaukee Film Festival,” he continued. “There are a lot of streaming platforms that offer thousands upon thousands of entertainment options, but during times of crisis, we know the last thing many people need is to make another decision in a day that’s full of difficult choices.”

Titles opening today at Sofa Cinema include “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band” and “Saint Frances,” which was also a selection for the 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival. Both films briefly played at the Oriental Theatre around the time of the cinema’s temporary shutdown in mid-March.

On Friday, April 10, Milwaukee Film will open “Bacurau,” a Brazilian thriller that took home the 2019 Cannes Jury Prize. “Fantastic Fungi” remains available for rental or purchase, with 40% of proceeds benefiting Milwaukee Film.

Sofa Cinema is designed to emulate the arthouse cinema experience as closely as possible, but in a virtual space. Similar to how films are programmed at the Oriental Theatre, Milwaukee Film will rotate in new titles regularly, with the goal of making one to two new films available every Friday.

Sofa Cinema films are available through innovative partnerships driven by independent film distributors, who have demonstrated their commitment to supporting arthouse cinemas through the COVID-19 crisis. Distributors such as Kino Lorber (“Bacurau”), Magnolia Pictures (“Once Were Brothers”) and Oscilloscope (“Saint Frances”) have made viewing films on virtual platforms accessible to wide audiences, while offering generous profit-sharing in supporting organizations such as Milwaukee Film.

“It’s been incredible to see the industry come together to make innovations like Sofa Cinema possible,” Jackson noted. “This 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.”

Following guidance from local, state, and national leaders, Milwaukee Film also announced that the Oriental Theatre would be closed until further notice. The nonprofit had previously announced an anticipated closure through April 9.

Film fans can view available films and get additional info through the Milwaukee Film website at mkefilm.org/sofacinema. Links from that page connect to offsite platforms where viewers can rent the featured titles and have a portion of proceeds support Milwaukee Film.

About The Author

Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.

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