Admittedly, much worse things have popped up in the news lately. The end of a movie streaming service doesn’t mean much compared to a mass killing in a house of worship.
But for American cinephiles, the sudden announcement about closing Filmstruck feels like the pending death of a too-young good friend. It’s been only two years since the best streaming service for cinephiles opened with great films and rocky technology. Over time, the technology improved. And now, they’re taking it away from us.
A collaboration of Turner Classic Movies and Criterion, FilmStruck offers a selection of Hollywood and international cinema. You can stream Casablanca, Bicycle Thieves, and many less-remembered works, including Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts, Hajime Sato’s Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell, and William Nigh’s Mr. Wu. But only until November 29.
For some time now, maybe 90% of the old movies I watched at home came into my television via FilmStruck. Take a look at my Recently Seen articles and you can see how much I depended on this service.
Who signed the execution order? According to a Variety article by Todd Spangler, “The move appeared to be the latest by WarnerMedia, under AT&T’s ownership, to streamline operations by cutting niche-oriented business ventures.”
Is this the end of streaming classic cinema? Probably not. Keep in mind that before FilmStruck, Criterion licensed its films to stream on Hulu and Fandor (which will probably benefit from FilmStruck’s demise), while Warners had its own Warner Instant Classic service. Kanopy streams Criterion films for free; all you need is a library card. There are other options, and I’ll probably be looking into them in the near future.
But if you really want to watch a movie in your home with complete control, nothing beats physical media. Even if you “buy” a movie on streaming media, the service or the copyright holder can take it away from you. But when you buy a shiny disc, it’s yours.
I know at least one thing that I’ll do when FilmStruck dies: I’ll change my Netflix subscription to include discs.
The best way to see any movie is on a big screen, surrounded by strangers. But that’s not always possible.
By the way, if you’re a Filmstruck subscriber, check out this page for refunds.