MSCHF’s ASCII theater streams movies everyday


Art collective MSCHF takes movie streaming to the Command Prompt with its new ASCII Theater project. Every day, MSCHF plays a new movie from recent releases down to classic films, all for free. Interested viewers who want to watch the movies in rows of changing and pixelated numbers, letters, and symbols only need to open their Command Prompt computer program, paste the code MSCHF has shared (more on this below), and, as the art collective says, start streaming the movie in ASCII form.


Kevin Wiesner, one of MSCHF’s creative directors, tells designboom that ‘we consider the ascii-converted movies to be transformative; you can literally copy and paste each frame and you will simply get a string of colored characters you could put into a Word document as nonsense. That said, the script or subtitles are certainly still under copyright, and this project is a deliberate ode to the creative workarounds that litter internet history. As we’ve said: we’ll keep screening movies until it gets shut down (more on this below).’

mschf ascii theater
moving and still images courtesy of ASCII Theater and MSCHF



Watch barbie, pulp fiction and more for free


MSCHF dedicates a website to its ASCII Theater, where viewers can copy and paste the code to start watching the movies. As of January 31st, 2024, Greta Gerwig’s recent Barbie movie is streaming, and the following day, A24’s cult horror Hereditary is set to be shown. Viewers only have 24 hours to catch the movie since the ASCII Theater changes them every day. The lineup may also play Pulp Fiction, The Shining Shrek, The Lion King, and The Great Gatsby, to name a few. The text-based movies are also free to stream for Mac users using their Terminal app.

mschf ascii theater
The Great Gatsby may be shown in MSCHF’s ASCII Theater



ASCII Theater plays movies as colored text, numbers, and symbols, directly in Command Prompt or Terminal. Using the single-line code MSCHF has uploaded on the site, it begins playing a new movie every day, ‘like a pirate radio broadcast,’ the art collective says. In an Instagram post, MSCHF says that there has been a long tradition of hacking and streaming content online. ‘That kid who streamed NBA games in the reflection of his sunglasses on Twitch is a hero,’ they add. ‘ASCII Theater is now live, streaming a new movie every day until we get shut down.’

mschf ascii theater
The Shining in MSCHF’s ASCII Theater



Infringing copyright laws?


Commercial movies are protected by copyright laws, as stated in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. While the regulations may differ depending on the country, the general consensus is that the owner of these movies—the producer, director, screenwriters, and other individuals and entities—has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and create derivative works based on their movie from the moment it was created until a period extending between the author’s lifetime and 70 years from the time of the author’s death.

mschf ascii theater
Pulp Fiction in MSCHF’s ASCII Theater



By streaming these movies, MSCHF might infringe upon copyright laws if they have not obtained permission to play them or if the owners decide to take legal action. The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 states that anyone who broadcasts copyrighted materials for private gain without the copyright owner’s authorization can be charged with a felony and face a maximum penalty of up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to 250,000 USD. On the other hand, MSCHF may not be profiting from showcasing the movies in ASCII Theater since they are shown for free and for a limited time. 

mschf ascii theater
Iron Man in MSCHF’s ASCII Theather



ASCII Theater isn’t the first time MSCHF unveiled playful marketing stunts, which may be expected given the art collective’s chosen name. Who can forget the Astroboy-looking giant red boots, or the ultra-tiny Louis Vuitton bag that needs a microscope for the wearer to see it? They have tried showing a person’s bank account balance publicly in Miami using an ATM machine, which also ranked people from millionaire to, well, non-millionaire. With the entrance of ASCII Theater, MSCHF may have taken a risk running into copyright laws and might be on edge for a notice about it given that the virtual theater is looping movies until it gets shut down.

mschf ascii theater
300 in MSCHF’s ASCII Theater

mschf ascii theater
Barbie is now showing

mschf ascii theater
MSCHF says it will continue playing movies on Command Prompt and Terminal until it gets shut down



project info:


name: ASCII Theater

collective: MSCHF