The tough part is figuring out how to navigate through all the mediocre films to find those gems that are really worth watching, said Barbara Murray, president of Danville-based media company Left Coast Productions.
"With so many people watching movies online, we just thought, 'Gosh, where do you go to find out which ones are good?'" she said. She had the idea for the company's latest project, a new Web site that reviews independent flicks. It's called "Your Indies are Showing."
To choose which films to review, staff members comb through dozens of online movie Web sites and bring recommendations to the table.
"There's millions of choices," Murray said. "We're gonna whittle them down to 10 or 12 each month that we think are worth looking at ...We're sort of getting people talking about them."
The reviews are posted in the form of two- to five-minute videos, filmed at the company's studio in Pleasanton. "Your Indies are Showing" is the only Web site in the country devoted to reviewing online films, claims the company. Murray was inspired to enter these uncharted waters when she discovered just how many people were doing their movie-watching online.
More than 85 million people worldwide watch independent movies on the Web each month, she said. "The numbers were staggering to me. That's what gave me the idea for this, when I heard these numbers."
The reviews are presented as "episodes" - almost as if Siskel & Ebert had their own TV show again, only online. The "cast" is three co-hosts that critique the films via unscripted conversations. It's fun to have no idea what the reviewers are going to say, said Murray.
The "set" is where the conversations are filmed. The studio was made to look like a little coffee house called the "Indies Cafe." Sometimes the "barista" will take a break from making lattes and join the hosts - Ben Tyson, Daniel Will Harris and Mitch Costanza - to offer her two cents about a particular film.
Currently the site has reviews up of five short films, two features - including "Juno," the independent project turned hit movie - and a documentary. One of the shorts is a political satire called "American Infant" that chronicles the life of a privileged boy.
"It's a story about a little boy named George who's violent, not very smart and likes to drink. Any idea who that might be?" said Harris in the review. "It was hilarious. I laughed out loud."
Though the reviews can sometimes be critical or turn into debates over the merits of a film, the company's intention is never to trash a movie, Murray said. It's about letting people know the films out there, and getting people to talk about them.
"Our goal really is to support filmmakers," she said. The site also serves as a resource for independent filmmakers, offering links to indie festivals, organizations and Web sites.
Some film festivals have invited the company to bring the "Indies Cafe" set and film the reviews live from the festival, said Murray. That way the hosts could interview directors, filmmakers and writers to supplement the review.
The site is still young, not much more than a month old, but the word is starting to get out, she said. As of Aug. 11, the site had 1,400 visitors from 35 countries around the world, including Japan, South Africa and all across Europe. They plan to look for advertisers or private support from companies to help fund the venture.
Online movies are a growing trend, Murray said. Experts predict that in about five years DVDs will just be backup; people will be downloading information straight from the Internet to their TV sets.
"It's just a different generation," she said. "This is where they're getting their information. This is where they're getting their entertainment. This is where they're getting their ads. It's just their form."
What about the older generation? Will they latch on to this new trend? Murray said that for viewers of all ages who are interested in finding quality films outside of the mainstream, the wealth of films available online is worth exploring.
"Some people will adjust to it, some people won't," she said. "I think it will be a wave of the future."