VH1 Sets Theatrical Release for Napster Doc ‘Downloaded’

Music documentary from Alex Winter will receive theatrical and VOD rollout starting June 21, followed by likely VH1 airings in 2014

“Downloaded,” Alex Winter’s documentary about the rise and fall of the transformative but controversial company Napster, will receive theatrical and VOD runs from VH1 beginning in late June, the music network announced on Monday.

Directed and produced by Alex Winter, the film will open in New York City on June 21 and Los Angeles on June 28, and will then expand to Albuquerque, Austin, Chicago, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Martha’s Vineyard, San Francisco and Seattle, among other cities.

DownloadedRichard Abramowitz of Abramorama will partner with VH1 on the theatrical release.

The film premiered at SXSW and also screened at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival, and has had additional screenings including one at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

“Downloaded” is part of VH1’s rockDocs series, which has also included “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” “The U.S. Vs. John Lennon” and “Marley.” The film will air on the cable channel in 2014, after its theatrical and VOD runs.

The film examines the music-business revolution caused by Napster, which allowed users to share music without paying royalties. Rather than embracing the new technology and trying to monetize it (as Apple did with its iTunes Store), the record industry sued Napster and tried to drive the company out of business – but by the time Shawn Fanning’s and Sean Parker’s company folded, the damage had been done to the traditional business model.

Getty ImagesFanning and Parker are among those interviewed for “Downloaded”; Winter also talked to Henry Rollins, the Beastie Boys’ Mike D., Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, record executives Seymour Stein, Don Ienner and Chris Blackwell, and Napster critics that include the Recording Industry Association of America’s former CEO, Hilary Rosen.  

After a screening in April, Winter – best known as the Bill to Keanu Reeves’ Ted in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” – told TheWrap that his plans to showcase “Downloaded” in a variety of media was patterned after the model used for the Oscar-nominated Banksy documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”

“There’s no reason why we can’t have a fully monetized system for distributing film using new technology,” he said.

He initially began work on the film as a narrative feature in 2002, but changed his focus and turned it into a documentary to explore the issues raised by the way Napster changed the music business, and the way downloading and file-sharing was threatening to do the same for the movie business.