Have you been secretly sneak previewing films before they open in theaters? I'm not talking about illegally downloading a big Hollywood flick like X-Men Origins: Wolverine or buying cheap pirate DVDs on the street. Indie distributors IFC Films and Magnolia Pictures have been pioneers in making their releases available via video on demand (VOD) systems, as reported by Anne Thompson at Variety last summer. IFC releases some titles direct to VOD, bypassing theaters entirely, while others are released to theaters and VOD at the same time.

Magnolia first experimented with the so-called "day-and-date" model in 2005, with Steven Soderbergh's Bubble, and has since made a few titles available several weeks in advance of a theatrical release as "sneak previews." (That's how I was able to see James Gray's Two Lovers two weeks before it opened locally.) Soderbergh's latest film, The Girlfriend Experience, will be available via VOD on April 30 before hitting theaters in New York and Los Angeles on May 22. James Rocchi caught the "work in progress" secret screening at Sundance and described it as "an intimate and yet honest movie about honesty and intimacy." Set in the days leading up to the 2008 Presidential election, porn star Sasha Grey plays a high-end Manhattan call girl meeting the challenges of her boyfriend (Chris Santos), her clients, and her work. You can check out the fabulous, alluring poster in the gallery below.

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Have you sneak previewed films via VOD? Is it worth the expense so you can see a film in advance of its theatrical release? Or is it just more convenient? Would you consider doing so on a title-by-title basis? Would you pay to see this Girlfriend early?