Friday, October 26, 2018

FilmStruck Streaming Service Shutting Down Next Month

Rather shocking classic film news this morning: The FilmStruck streaming service will be shutting down as of November 29, 2018.

FilmStruck began in November 2016, focusing on "art house," indie, and foreign films, including titles from the Criterion Collection. Earlier this year it added "TCM Select," rotating in classic film titles from the Warner Bros. library.

Although I didn't have time to watch it as often as I'd have liked, simply due to having so many viewing options, I've been enjoying subscribing the past few months. The curation was absolutely stellar, including introductions filmed specifically for the service, and I loved being able to watch things like the not-on-DVD documentary on director Yasujiro Ozu.

I wasn't that concerned when Warner Archive's streaming service closed because that channel's content essentially moved to FilmStruck. FilmStruck shutting down seems much, much more ominous. If that service couldn't make it as a classic film streaming channel, what could?

Cable subscribers continue to have the Watch TCM service supplementing the TCM Channel, essentially extending availability of titles airing on TCM for a few more days on PCs and portable devices, but there's not much more out there. It's especially concerning as services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have continued to pare down their classic-era offerings in favor of investing in new original content. It will be interesting to see whether the upcoming Disney streaming service incorporates their classic film library along with original and newer content.

In the meantime, this certainly -- and sadly -- underscores that streaming services cannot be relied on as the "way of the future," especially when it comes to classic films. I'm glad I invest in owning a large library of physical media, along with regularly recording from cable. As long as the discs -- or tapes! -- don't "go bad," there's comfort in knowing I'll never run out of classic films to watch!

Previously: TCM News: FilmStruck and TCM Backlot; FilmStruck and Warner Archive Streaming News.

November 17, 2018 Update: Criterion Announces New Streaming Service.


Blogger Kristina said...

Wow does this news stink! and makes me worry about some other similar streaming operations (if not an actual channel...). Amen to your last paragraph, for classic/obscure movie fans, collecting is still King.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

......And as long as your disc players stay working, Laura! One of the UK's big retailers have just announced that sales of DVD players have fallen by 40% this year so they will not be re-stocking when existing stock has been sold. Still, BluRay players will continue, I guess.

We are constantly being told that streaming is the future and that discs are now 'old hat' but that is now looking uncertain, in terms of classic era anyway.
Streaming doesn't really interest me. I want to be able to pull a rare little film off my shelf, when I want.

2:38 PM  
Blogger A said...

That's always been the trade off with digital - Do you buy DVD's or rely on a streaming service with access to that title? Do you buy cd's or just use iTunes? Do you buy a Kindle or a physical book? I suppose a person must decide - Is it more important to just see something once or do you want permanent access or do you just not care about the particular content? Unfortunately I think most people just want access to anything and don't care what it is.

3:05 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I've never believed otherwise. Hard copies are the way to go in film, music and literature, whether fiction or non-fiction.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Good to share collectively share our sadness over this bummer news. If FilmStruck couldn't make it as a classic film channel, what could?

Jerry, I do worry about equipment...I have a backup VHS/DVD player in a closet which daughter brought home from work when it was discarded. Hopefully it has a lot of life left i it! I got my last VHS/DVD player (because I still watch VHS) used on Amazon -- has worked great.

I was especially concerned when Kristina let me know she was having trouble finding DVD-R recorders. I checked Amazon and sure enough those which aren't very expensive pro models are very hard to find. That worries me a lot! I burn a lot of movies to disc.

Best wishes,

12:41 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

By obsessing over services such as FilmStruck, Netflix or any other we are losing control over what see view, hear or read, and accepting some corporate or political view. I know many seemingly bright people who have abandoned their own libraries for someone else's They are not at all bright. This is the relinquishment of personal taste to barely animate corporate control Don't let it continue.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Not quite sure I follow you here, Barrylane. FilmStruck provided a service which many of us enjoyed, just as Turner Classic Movies, Netflix, or any other outlet do, and we're sad it's going away.

Not sure where the "obsessing" comes in. Any one of these services are just one outlet but we cumulatively rely on both TV/streaming and DVD/Blu-ray producers to make available the things we want to see. I do agree it's important to diversify sources and not rely solely on any one provider, as (as we have seen) it can go away at any time, and this is also why I like to collect permanent copies.

I have heard stories on Twitter and elsewhere of people who are no longer interested in building personal libraries, saying "I'll just stream it," which to me is nonsensical, as, again, that can all go away at any time. The immediate future in streaming holds far less classic filmwise than it did just a few years ago, rather than more, and that's deeply concerning. So perhaps that's part of what you're referring to?

Another side note worth raising here is the impermanence of digital copies. If you buy from iTunes it's not really permanent ownership; distribution agreements change and things disappear. I remember one day reading on Twitter of someone who sat down to watch her digital copies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy only to discover they had vanished from her iTunes account. I enjoy digital copies for travel or for my kids to watch long-distance but the hard copy in the library is key.

Along with my purchased copies, I'm really glad that I started recording off TCM, Encore Westerns, Fox Movie Channel, and other channels many years ago, first on VHS and then DVD-R so that I have ongoing access to so many titles.

But circling back to the topic at hand, FilmStruck was quite special in its enthusiastic, elegant presentation, with intros by TCM hosts like Eddie Muller and Alicia Malone, films not available on DVD (I'm going to be trying to catch more not-on-DVD Ozu films before it shuts down), and interesting curated groupings. It was a fun place for classic film fans to "hang out" and more's the pity it's leaving.

Best wishes,

2:16 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

It certainly raises the 'uncertainty' level for the way ahead, doesn't it?

I have always recorded quite a lot via my DVR-recorder too, Laura. Essential to me. I recently disposed of my VCR though. All essential VHS tapes have been transferred to disc though.

2:34 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Laura, I was addressing people who abandon their personal libraries and accept streaming services as a substitute. No CD player, Blu/DVD player and replace the option of having control over your taste with the service. As for FilmStruck, it is over, but even if it was not, a home library is personal, not corporate. As for the clumsiness of my comment above, I was working with weights and wrote, and often write, in between sets. Sorry for that. Oh, and I have always been interested in off the various services, TCM, AMC (back in the day) and others.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the clarification, Barrylane. I don't think our opinions are that far off. I feel a home library and a service like FilmStruck each have their place; though I appreciate FilmStruck and greatly regret it being shut down, I do give greater value to my permanent home library.

No worries on commenting in between weights, good for you!

Best wishes,

4:41 PM  
Blogger mel said...

This just in:

Criterion films find new home
Collection of classic movies will stream on a stand-alone service after FilmStruck ends.
By Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times, November 17 2018

The Criterion Collection’s treasure trove of classic movies will have its own streaming home after the closure of FilmStruck, WarnerMedia said Friday.
New York-based Criterion Collection, which distributes classic movies such as Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” and Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows,” will launch a free-standing online service called the Criterion Channel next spring to replace FilmStruck, which is closing Nov. 29.
The decision follows a widespread outcry among classic film fans and prominent directors over Warner-Media’s sudden announcement last month that it would close the small but beloved 2-year-old service,which subscribers used to access foreign classics and art-house dramas thatshaped the history of Hollywood.
FilmStruck’s demise sparked fears that important movies would have trouble finding a home in the increasingly fragmented streaming future. In addition to the Criterion movies, FilmStruck housed films from Warner Bros.’ vast studio archive.
A petition demanding WarnerMedia save FilmStruck garnered more than 50,000 signatures.
Filmmakers including Guillermo del Toro, Barry Jenkins and Edgar Wright also in-
creased pressure on the company to preserve the service in some fashion.
The new stand-alone Criterion Channel will charge subscribers $10.99 a month, or $100 for those who pay for a full year at once, according to the Criterion website. Those who sign up early will get a $1-a-month discount.
Like FilmStruck, Criterion Channel will have its own supplemental programming for movie buffs, featuring cinema luminaries and behind-the-scenes footage. Movies from the Criterion Channel also will become a part of WarnerMedia’s upcoming larger streaming service, which is expected to launch in late 2019, the companies said. WarnerMedia previously said Criterion movies would have a place on WarnerMedia’s digital offering that will also include shows and movies from HBO and Turner Networks,
but it did not offer details on how the classics would be presented.
“Today’s announcement ensures that fans will have access to these films from the Criterion Collection as well as films from Warner-Media’s deep and extensive library in what will be a rich and curated experience, which will further expand the audience footprint for these classic and acclaimed movies,” the firms said in a statement.
WarnerMedia’s decision to close Atlanta-based Film-Struck followed the demise of the company’s other small streaming services after the media giant was absorbed by Dallas-based mobile titan AT&T. Casualties included the eclectic digital studio Super Deluxe and the Korean online drama channel DramaFever.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks a bunch, Mel! I've now written a post on the new service and incorporated this article. Appreciate it!

Best wishes,

8:30 PM  

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