Moviegoers were shocked to see Filmstruck, the streaming services sometimes referred to as the Netflix for cinephiles, announce it’s departure on Oct. 29, 2018 via Twitter.
The prominent streaming service, which catered primarily to film enthusiasts, addressed the public on their website that they would be shutting down, effective Nov. 29, 2018. Under AT&T Inc. ownership, WarnerMedia is shutting down the streaming service due to the small, niche audience of the streaming service, even rejecting customers post-announcement.
Filmstruck, partnered with the Criterion Channel and managed by Turner Classic Media (TCM), is considered by some the holy grail for followers of film, presenting independent, avant-garde, foreign, classic, and lost cinema from all over the world. Founded in 1984, The Criterion Collection is a home video company “dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions in the highest technical quality with supplemental features that enhance the appreciation of the art of film,” as stated on every DVD box they release.
The Filmstruck partner also released important films to stream, but don’t receive the same treatment as Criterion films. Criterion will fortunately continue to release their high DVD, however, Filmstruck and Criterion films will cease to exist at one place for consumption, costing moviegoers much more than their hard day’s work.
Filmstruck began in November 2016 with just 500 films. Today, they include 1,800 films along with a myriad of video essays, interviews, and insightful specials to compliment the films they present.
Platforms such as Hulu and Netflix exist primarily for entertainment, catering to the tastes of broad audiences; without streaming services with more specific target audiences, such as Filmstruck, films with niche qualities and appeal face a much harder challenge for exposure.Joanna Scutts in an article for Slate said “But for the most part these services are self-reinforcing, telling you what you like based on what you’ve watched before, making inferences about you as a member of a certain demographic. If the only art you see is the kind of art you’ve already heard of, then you’re missing the challenge and the thrill of true discovery.”
Filmstruck highlighted films with more difficulty appealing to mass-entertainment streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu, placing particular priority on films made or starring people of color-such as Sidney Poitier and Ousmane Sembéne- LGBTQ identity gems like The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, and films made in otherwise under represented countries like Iran’s Taste of Cherry. With the platform’s termination, this could make the accessibility of these films increasingly difficult.
Fortunately, MUBI, another niche streaming service, caters to the moviegoer by streaming a total of 30 films with one new movie everyday. The service provides access to a multitude of indie, foreign, and classic gems. Previous Criterion pictures were victims to limited releases, notably, Pierrot Le Fou, which also share the opportunity to be re-released by Criterion treatment once more, like Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious arriving in 2019. The Criterion Collection website offers newsletter alerts and can be found on major social media outlets such as Twitter and Instagram so customers will never miss another release.
In the events of this announcement, Collider senior editor Matt Goldberg reposted his article, In Defense of Physical Media: Why You Should Keep Buying Blu-rays and DVDs on Twitter, an article about the significance of collecting and preserving DVDs as niche streaming services shut their doors, putting more obscure DVD releases at risk of being lost.
David Ehrlich, senior film critic of IndieWire, said via Twitter “The death of Filmstruck is the biggest technological step backwards since they discontinued the Concorde.” The death of Filmstruck reinforces the fact that convenience sometimes comes at a price.