Film fans – and filmmakers, including Guillermo del Toro, Edgar Wright and Rian Johnson – have taken to the Internet in recent weeks to protest about the closure of FilmStruck. The streaming service, a joint venture between Turner International’s Digital Ventures & Innovation Group and Warner Bros. Digital Networks, first opened its online doors in 2016, becoming a key platform for cinephiles, thanks to its focus on classic, arthouse and indie cinema – titles often overlooked by larger streaming players, such as Netflix. Last month, though, Warner owners AT&T announced that the service would be closing, as it plans to consolidate its online presence into one single subscription platform.
The closure carries less impact in the UK, where many classics, arthouse gems and international titles are available on other services, such as MUBI and BFI Player+, but in the USA, the news has been met with dismay, while also sparking an important debate about the preservation of older movies in the digital age, and our access to them.
One of the major parts of FilmStruck’s appeal was the Criterion Collection, which was available exclusively on the subscription service. Now, as film lovers continue to call for FilmStruck to be kept alive, Criterion has announced that it is launching its own standalone streaming service.
Called The Criterion Channel, the service will launch in spring 2019 and will be wholly owned and operated by the Criterion label.
“We’ve been trying to make something a little different for the past two years—a movie lover’s dream streaming service, with smart thematic programming, where the history of cinema can live and breathe, where a new generation of filmmakers and film lovers can explore the classics or revel in rarities, where adventurous cinephiles can champion films that have never gotten their due, and newcomers can easily find guidance from major filmmakers, top scholars, curators, and other experts from all walks of life,” wrote Criterion in a blog post announcing the service.
It “will be picking up where [FilmStruck] left off, programming director spotlights and actor retrospectives featuring major Hollywood and international classics and hard-to-find discoveries from around the world, complete with special features like commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage, and original documentaries”. It will continue with its guest programmer series, Adventures in Moviegoing, plus regular series, such as Art-House America, Split Screen, and Meet the Filmmakers, and its Ten Minutes or Less section – as well as its weekly Short + Feature and Double Feature selections, plus its monthly 15-minute film school, Observations on Film Art.
The service will be available in the US and Canada initially, with a hope to launch in additional territories (including the UK) in the future. (The UK, it’s worth noting, only recently started to get the Criterion Collection’s physical discs a few years ago, through a deal with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.)
Pricing in the US will start at $10.99 a month or $100 a year, with a discounted rate of $9.99 a month or $89.99 a year for early subscribers who sign up now. Early subscribers (called “Charter Subscribers”) will also get a 30-day free trial when it launches, as well as Concierge customer service from the Criterion Collection, a holiday gift-certificate present, for use on the Criterion Collection website, and a Charter Subscriber membership card.
The library will, naturally, be smaller than that of FilmStruck’s, but the news of a standalone Criterion Channel will come as good news for those keen to support, access and share the kind of films that could be lost without Criterion’s work.
Criterion has also confirmed that its library will be available through WarnerMedia’s eventual consumer platform, which will replace FilmStruck with a wider, consolidated service late next year. With the availability of Warner’s service internationally still uncertain, the news of having two potential ways to stream the Criterion Collection online in the UK is a promising step forward from a month ago.
Are you an existing FilmStruck UK subscriber? Read our guide to the 50 films to see before it closes on 29th November 2018.