Joss Whedon releases new film on demand
Avengers director Joss Whedon has surprised fans by releasing his latest film online at the same time as it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Whedon, whose Avengers film made $1.5bn (£892m) at the box office, made In Your Eyes available to rent for $5 (£3).
It is the second release from his "micro studio" Bellwether Pictures, after 2013's Much Ado About Nothing.
"It's exciting for us because we get to explore yet another new form of distribution - and we get $5," he said.
In Your Eyes is a supernatural love story, starring Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David as strangers who believe they share a telepathic connection.
End Quote Greg Clayman, Vimeo
The fact that people like Joss are starting to think about direct distribution and connecting directly with their fans is exciting for us”
It is available to rent on video streaming website Vimeo, where fans have already left reviews.
Robyn Harris called it "supremely sad, fabulously funny, terrifyingly tender", while JP Gagen said the script's "original concept" was "executed beautifully".
Whedon is a cult figure in the sci-fi community, having created TV shows including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse and "space western" Firefly.
A co-writer of the original Toy Story, he was also a script doctor on movies such as Speed and Twister, before being asked to direct Marvel's Avengers Assemble in 2012.
The director has experimented with digital releases in the past - and his 2008 spoof superhero musical Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog one of the first high-profile Web series.
He wrote and produced In Your Eyes, handing directorial duties to Brin Hill.
Whedon sent a short video message, apparently recorded on the set of Avengers sequel Age of Ultron, to the Tribeca Film Festival.
In it, he announced the screening was "not just the premiere of the film - it is the worldwide release date because, as of now, In Your Eyes is available on any internet-capable device".
The choice of Vimeo, a distant rival to YouTube, as the film's distributor is a huge coup for the New York-based firm.
"This is the most high profile title we've had on the platform, definitely," the company's Greg Clayman told Gigaom.
"The fact that people like Joss are starting to think about direct distribution and connecting directly with their fans is exciting for us, and a trend we think will continue."
"I like the surprise element," he added of the film's stealth release.
"It's a non-traditional way, for sure, but hey, it works for Beyonce."