A New Site to Find Out Where You Can Stream Movies — Legally

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The same group that’s behind the film-rating system is also battling Internet piracy, and they recently launched a new site to help movie audiences keep things legal. The Motion Picture Association of America (or the MPAA) is behind the new site WhereToWatch, an online resource that will direct visitors to authorized (read: legal) sources to watch their favorite movies or TV shows.

WhereToWatch gathers and presents streaming options from a wide variety of those services, including companies both big (Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix) and small (like MUBI and Viewster). It’s not the only online catalog of cinematic streaming options — sites like Flixter and CanIStream.It function the same way. WhereToWatch also lets users find and buy tickets for films currently playing in theaters — joining the crowded movie-listings space already occupied by Moviefone, Fandango, and Yahoo.

So how does this new (and still-in-beta) site compare to its more established competition? We spent a bit of time poking around and were pretty pleased with what we found. 

We were immediately taken by its minimalist look. Secondary content — news, features, interviews, lists, etc. — that often sits atop the pages of other sites, fall at the bottom of WhereToWatch. The search quality is also pretty good. We entered a random list of movies (including 22 Jump Street, John Ford’s magnificent 1949 Western She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and art-house fare like the Terrence Davies’ quiet 1998 masterpiece Distant Voices, Still Lives) to see what streaming options would be offered. WhereToWatch and CanIStream.It produced similar results, with both providing single-click buttons that take visitors to the appropriate streaming service.

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Of course, WhereToWatch can’t do anything about the great numbers of illegal downloaders who just can’t seem to wait the few months it takes a new release to go from cineplex to digital distribution. But it does serve its core purpose — enabling users to navigate the confusing landscape of streaming and downloading services with a minimal amount of fuss. For that reason, we rate the MPAA’s new site PG, as in pretty good.