With Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime firmly entrenched as the most popular options for online streaming, newer services are being forced to find creative ways to differentiate themselves from the pack. Oftentimes, this means going after an audience that the Big Three can’t satisfy. For example: hardcore cinephiles who need their daily Kurosawa fix.
The ambitious new streaming service FilmStruck, which launched on Tuesday after a two-week delay, is hoping to corner this exact market by teaming up with the Criterion Collection to offer users access to Criterion’s catalog of 1,500 classic and art-house films. As the New York Times reports, the company is banking on the notion that users will be willing to pay more than one streaming subscription, as it can’t compete with the larger, general streaming services but offers enticing perks that cater exclusively to cinephiles.
FilmStruck’s niche appeal is hard to argue with. The service plans to take full advantage of its Criterion connection to offer present “entire editions” of films including commentaries, interviews, and other supplementary material. “I think the movies are a solid piece of it,” Jonathan Turrell, chief executive of the Criterion Collection, told the Times. “But I think the way they are presented is what we’re spending a lot of time with.”
A basic FilmStruck subscription is $6.99 a month, while full access to the Criterion Channel within FilmStruck is $10.99. (Users can also subvert the two-tiered pricing model by paying an annual fee of $99). For those who’d say, “Wait a second! I can already get a bunch of Criterion films via Hulu!”, there’s some bad news: Those films will be exiting Hulu on November 11th, meaning Criterion buffs will be forced to go to FilmStruck for their art-house needs.
The good news is that FilmStruck’s initial batch of offerings looks pretty impressive. Many of the new releases will appeal to music fans, including documentary features like Buena Vista Social Club, the Rolling Stones rock doc Gimme Shelter, and Madonna: Truth or Dare. Other sections are devoted to the films of the British New Wave (A Hard Day’s Night, Tom Jones), Early Kubrick (Fear and Desire, The Killing), and other movements and directors from throughout film history. Yes, Kurosawa is well represented.