music friday: 2009
12 i missed, revisited

filmstruck goes under

On November 1, 2016, I was welcomed to the new streaming service, Filmstruck, with an email that began, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship". I signed up for them because Criterion moved their streaming catalog there from Hulu. I spend a lot of my media time in the cloud these days ... I stream movies and TV shows from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, along with using Comcast On Demand. And, of course, for music there is Spotify. I buy the occasional album to help lesser-known artists, but even that is digital ... I've barely bought an actual CD in a long time.

In the early days of DVDs, I overdid it. I would join clubs that offered 13 movies for $1 with a small promise of buying more ... I worked the system so I was getting lots of movies for very little money, oftentimes buying 16, closing my account, and buying another 16 the next day. Because of this I have hundreds of DVDs, most of which sit on the shelf because 1) you can't watch all of them every day, and 2) I'll get lazy and rewatch DVDs I own on a streaming service. I still buy Blu-rays, though, since the quality is better than streaming (although since I've long since accepted the low-fi of MP3s, I don't know why I care). Apparently I buy more Criterion Blu-rays than I realize ... last week they gave me a $50 gift certificate for being a loyal customer. I just watched a Criterion Blu-ray the other day, Memories of Underdevelopment.

Today, it was announced that FilmStruck is closing at the end of next month, just over two years from when it started. It's easy to describe what FilmStruck offered that other services do not. I currently have 84 movies on my FilmStruck watch list. Here is the decade breakdown for those films:

  • 2010s: 2
  • 2000s: 3
  • 1990s: 5
  • 1980s: 4
  • 1970s: 15
  • 1960s: 14
  • 1950s: 14
  • 1940s: 12
  • 1930s: 11
  • 1920s: 3
  • 1910s: 1

That's 66 out of 84 between 1930-1979. Without doing any more close readings of my various watchlists, I'm going to guess that they have very few movies from before 1980. (OK, I just eyeballed my Netflix watchlist, and there are no pre-21st century movies on the list.) FilmStruck served a niche. FilmStruck was also nicely curated. The TCM section is good, but the Criterion Channel rises above and beyond: "Ten Minutes or Less" (shorts on a variety of film-related topics), "Adventures in Moviegoing" (noteworthy artists share their favorite movies), "Observations on Film Art" (scholars discuss topics in their field of expertise), "Tuesday's Short + Feature" (self-explanatory), "Friday Night Double Feature" (same), and "Split Screen" (a TV series on indie film).

I have a lot of places to look for movies. I have TCM and a DVR, for example. I also have a lot of Criterion discs to hold me over until Criterion finds a new streaming home. But I will miss FilmStruck. As will others ... here are a few reactions on Twitter:

"FUCK. Like... I went into @FilmStruck a little under the weather and before taping anything received a homemade fennel and pea shoot soup, like... these were flesh and blood people who really, truly cared about the work they were doing and the people who made and appreciated film." -- Barry Jenkins

"FilmStruck was too good to last. I see it sadly floating away from the charred wasteland that is 2018, Lorax style." -- Rian Johnson

"Terrible, terrible, terrible. The service barely got a chance to find its footing before the suits pulled the plug." -- Farran Nosferatu

"This is very disappointing news. Here's hoping that the Criterion Channel finds a new home soon, and Warner Bros. finds a cultural conscience about making its library of old films--the largest and most significant in Hollywood--more easily available." -- Mark Harris

"Another thing I will say: @FilmStruck actively took the time to highlight films made by women, people of color, minorities, and countries often not represented at all by other streaming services. We need to be programming and curating diversely." -- Michelle Buchman

"Warner pulling the plug on FilmStruck after just two years does not bode well at all for the future of film—or music—catalog on streaming services. And if streaming is exclusively focused on the present, where will we learn about our cultural past?" -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine

"We will find a way to bring it back- We will!" -- Guillermo del Toro