The Sundance Film Festival kicks off on Thursday in Park City, Utah. If you’re even remotely involved in the world of filmed entertainment, you’ll be there. And if you’re not then you’ll wait patiently a few months for the cream of the festival’s movie crop to appear on a screen near you. Such are the vagaries of film distribution.

Or at least that’s how it used to be.

This year, the Sundance Institute’s Artist Services arm is launching ‘Now Playing‘, a service which aims to help Sundance-screened movies get digital distribution soon after their festival showing.

The service was developed by Chris Horton, Associate Director of Filmmaker Services at Sundance; Director of Digital Initiatives, Joseph Beyer and Digital Media Consultant Roger Erik Tinch. The service is live now, although it doesn’t officially launch until tomorrow. [Update: Here’s the official launch announcement.]

When I spoke to Tinch earlier, he was keen to emphasise that Sundance is not getting into the distribution business with Now Playing, but rather is helping connect artists with existing digital distribution channels and distributors. The aim is to reduce the lag (and friction) between screening at Sundance and a film being available to the viewing public.

At launch there are 13 films Now Playing, including Tom Noonan’s What Happened Was…, Christian Frei’s Space Tourists and Lincoln Ruchti’s Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade which tells the wonderful story of competitive video gaming in the 80s.Trailer for the latter below…