Turner Classic Movies announced two major new initiatives the week of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival.
On Tuesday, April 26th, TCM announced the upcoming launch of a new streaming service, FilmStruck.
FilmStruck will focus on foreign, independent, and cult movies. It will be the exclusive streaming site for the Criterion Collection, and it will also feature films from the libraries of Kino, Flicker Alley, and several other companies.
It is not anticipated that much of the FilmStruck's content will mirror what's currently shown on Turner Classic Movies, other than titles from the Sunday evening TCM Imports franchise.
At the TCM press conference the day before the festival opened, we were told that the new service, which was originally named TCM Art House, is seen as a way to screen "hard to find" films.
Though TCM was dropped from the service's name due in part to the partnership with Criterion, Charles Tabesh, the senior VP in charge of programming at TCM, will be heading up programming of the streaming service. And just as on TCM, all films will be shown uncut and commercial free.
Visit the future FilmStruck website to watch a trailer.
For additional coverage of FilmStruck, Will McKinley provided a detailed analysis at his blog Cinematically Insane, and there's more from Stephen Battaglio at the Los Angeles Times.
On Wednesday, April 27th, TCM launched the TCM Backlot, described as TCM's first-ever official fan club.
The news broke so late that when I arrived at the festival press office that morning to pick up my media credential, I was completely mystified by the membership kit which was included with the credential.
At that afternoon's press conference, the TCM Backlot club was described as a way to bring classic film fans together and interact with TCM. The TCM staff said that those who join the Backlot club early on can "help us build the club."
I set up the membership that evening in order to start looking around, and I've visited the site several times since to monitor how it's developing.
TCM Backlot seems to me to have been more than a little inspired by Disney's official D23 fan club, of which I'm also a member. The annual fee for TCM Backlot is $87, which is roughly comparable to D23's $80 annual fee (that D23 fee includes shipping and handling).
The TCM Backlot website is heavy on video content and includes "behind the scenes" footage; older TCM video content, such as the short pieces which play in between movies; and tribute footage for actors such as Elliott Gould and Gina Lollobrigida which was shown at the festival.
Members recently voted on the stars for two of the days in this year's Summer Under the Stars festival, and -- like D23 -- it's anticipated that there will be events around the country where Backlot members can gather.
Those who joined Backlot at the festival could take advantage of a few special perks, including guaranteed seating for the interview with Faye Dunaway, a private tour of the Hollywood Heritage Museum, and a tour of the Academy Film Archive.
One key difference from D23 is that every quarter D23 produces the large, glossy Disney Twenty-three magazine, so fans receive something substantive for their membership fee regardless of accessing the site or attending events.
Whether fans will view a TCM Backlot membership as a worthy financial investment will, of course, depend on what the Backlot makes available going forward. At the moment it seems very much a work in progress, and I'll be continuing to follow the Backlot's development with interest over the course of the next year.
May 25th Update: More big TCM news: TCM Announces Tiffany Vazquez as Saturday Afternoon Host.