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David Lynch casts his visions onto Net

The mysterious, avant-garde filmmaker who gave us "Mulholland Drive" and "Twin Peaks" steps into the realm of the Web, where "the ether is huge," he says.

David Lynch, the mysterious filmmaker who gave us surrealistic films such as "Mulholland Drive" and "Eraserhead" is stepping into the realm of the Internet.

The film director launched a new entertainment Web site Friday that features a series of video-on-demand shorts--all written and directed by Lynch himself.

"The Internet is very much alive and well," Lynch said in an interview with CNET "There are many experiments and many paths that we're building where people can go down into the unknown...The ether is huge, and we can poke out into this world and have experiences."

The site, which has no sponsorship or advertising, is a subscription-based service where people can pay to view his series the same way that his fans once were glued to his popular TV series "Twin Peaks." is being launched at a time when the Internet is undergoing an evolutionary stage, marked by media companies aiming to create a new breed of entertainment. Sony and Vivendi Universal Net USA, for instance, are tapping into the Web to give aspiring filmmakers a venue to showcase short-form videos. Moreover, start-ups, such as Lions Gate Entertainment-backed CinemaNow and Intertainer, are attempting to grab a foothold in the video-on-demand arena. Both companies have recently formed ties with MGM Home Entertainment to feature popular MGM films. "would be a good test of the waters to see that the writing and production values can translate to the Internet and not just TV," said Richard Doherty, director of research for The Envisioneering Group, a Seaford, N.Y.-based market research firm.

Because the Internet offers the opportunity for extra details you can't get on television, Doherty said, a "good David Lynch production could work very well." However, he added, the downside is that Lynch's works "generally have a very high production value and require a good mood being set by high-quality" audio as well as video.

Because the site is geared mainly for broadband users who can view the series using QuickTime, this may limit Lynch's audience, analysts said. At the end of 2001, only 37.9 million Internet surfers in the United States had access to broadband in the home and work, according to Joe Laszlo, analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix. That compares with a total of 141.5 million Internet users.

Still, the avant-garde filmmaker remains optimistic that his Web site will take off with not only his art house fans, but also with a mainstream audience.

When asked how he came up with the concept of the site, Lynch said, "It's the same as any other thing--it's all based on ideas.

"Fortunately there are ideas in the world, and once and a while we get lucky and catch them...and if we fall in love with them, we're off and running."

Lynch's Web site brings to the PC screen three different series, called "Dumbland," "Rabbits" and "Axxon N." People who want to access one of the series--which consist of 9 programs--can view on a pay-per-view basis for $7.79. Others who want access to the entire series, plus other Lynch content, can pay $9.97 per month. Added features include music videos, photos, a chat room, cartoons, and a store where people can purchase remastered versions of his short films and the cult classic "Eraserhead."

As a part of the launch and as an incentive to capture an audience to the site, Lynch is featuring a contest called "Lunch with Lynch." The filmmaker will pick a winner and fly them to Los Angeles to treat them to lunch at Bob's Big Boy--a place that holds significance in his works.