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FilmStruck, And The Access It Provided To Many Classic Films, Shut Down By Warner Bros.

By Brian Richards | Streaming | October 27, 2018 |

By Brian Richards | Streaming | October 27, 2018 |


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So…let’s run down the list of how absolutely delightful this past week has been.

There’s the Florida man who decided to take a break from harassing women on Twitter (which was completely ignored by The Powers That Be over at Twitter because of course it was) to send pipe bombs to many of the people who have spoken out against Donald Trump, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Cory Booker, Maxine Waters, and even Robert De Niro.

There was the murder of two people at a Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky by a White man who had originally attempted to enter a Black church and begin his shooting spree there, and when that wasn’t possible, he began his bloodbath at Kroger and when another White man who was in Kroger confronted him and tried to convince him to stop, the shooter actually said, “Whites don’t kill other Whites.”

As of this writing, there is an active shooter in a Pittsburgh synagogue where four people have already been reportedly killed.

There was Megyn Kelly who really felt the need to Jane Lane-shrug on national television about the existence and history of Blackface, and also about the fact that Blackface has been and continues to be used by White people for their Halloween costumes, which led to her losing her morning show and possibly walking away from it all with a $69 million payout.

And then there’s Paramount Pictures announcing that they’re planning to remake Clueless and thinking that it’s anything resembling a good idea.

And if all of that wasn’t enough to make the year 2018 feel like it’s been lasting for an entire decade, there was one more piece of bad news dropped into the laps of many a person who loves and appreciates films: FilmStruck, the two-year-old streaming service with a catalog largely comprised of classic films, was being shut down by WarnerMedia as part of the recent merger between AT&T and Time Warner, and would cease all operations by November 29th.

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We have some sad news to share: earlier this morning, Turner and Warner Bros. Digital Networks announced plans to shut down FilmStruck, the streaming service that has been our happy home for the last two years. Like many of you, we are disappointed by this decision. When we launched the Criterion Channel in 2016, we had two goals: to ensure that our entire streaming library remained available, and to address our audience in our own voice. We’re proud of the work we’ve done, bringing curated programming and the full range of supplemental features to the streaming space, championing a diverse array of filmmakers from beyond our collection and creating original content that invites you into exciting conversations about cinema culture. All this is very new, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated as we learn more details. But rest assured that we are still committed to restoring and preserving the best of world cinema and bringing it to you in any medium we can. In the weeks ahead, we’ll keep you informed about the great programming you can watch on the Channel before it shuts down on November 29, and we’ll be trying to find ways we can bring our library and original content back to the digital space as soon as possible. Thanks to everyone who enjoyed FilmStruck, and we hope you’ll join us as we look forward to what the future brings.

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According to this statement from Turner and WB Digital Networks, which reads like a statement made by the kind of executives who thought it was a good idea to have Poochie become a cast member of The Itchy and Scratchy Show:

“We’re incredibly proud of the creativity and innovations produced by the talented and dedicated teams who worked on FilmStruck over the past two years. While FilmStruck has a very loyal fanbase, it remains largely a niche service. We plan to take key learnings from FilmStruck to help shape future business decisions in the direct-to-consumer space and redirect this investment back into our collective portfolios.”

Needless to say, Film Twitter did not take this news particularly well:

As much as we enjoy watching Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the many hours of television that they offer, it’s no secret that these apps, especially Netflix, which started out as an app/service for renting and streaming movies, have very little to offer when it comes to movies to watch. And when it comes to movies made before the Sixties and Seventies, the likelihood of being able to find one to watch on those apps is practically nonexistent. Which is why so many movie lovers rejoiced and did cartwheels when it was first announced that there would be a streaming service that offered so many classic films, especially those not available anywhere else for purchase or rental or seeing in a repertory theater if you live in a city that’s fortunate enough to have a repertory theater. The kind of classic films that made the people who love movies fall in love with movies in the first place.

If you were in the mood for science-fiction, you could watch Seconds, Mad Max, Scanners, Westworld, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, or Capricorn One.

If you were in the mood for romance, you could watch the Before trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, or as Petr calls them: the greatest trilogy ever made), Chungking Express, In The Mood For Love, and the original versions of A Star Is Born.

If you were in the mood for action, you could watch Seven Samurai, Bullitt, Lady Snowblood, The Getaway, Shogun Assassin, the Lone Wolf And Cub series of films, the Zatoichi series of films, and The Great Escape.

If you were in the mood for comedy, you could watch Hopscotch, Eating Raoul, Happy-Go-Lucky, La Cage Aux Folles, To Have And Have Not, This Is Spinal Tap, and Withnail And I.

If you were in the mood for crime fiction, you could watch The Long Goodbye, The Long Good Friday, Blood Simple, Le Samourai, Following, The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, Insomnia, The Killing, and Thief.

And if you were in the mood for horror, you could watch Night Of The Living Dead, Cronos, The Vanishing (the original version that’s actually good, not the watered-down remake with the happy ending), The Brood, Sisters, Eyes Without A Face, and Horror Of Dracula.

The fact that Warner Bros., one of the oldest and most successful movie studios in history, could so easily and willingly shut down a service that provided access to so many classic films that helped educate, enlighten, and just flat-out entertain audiences of all kinds, as well as preserve film history for those who are determined to help keep it alive and pass it on down to others, was like a knife in the heart for movie lovers of all kinds. And it also served as a cruel reminder of at least two things:

1) As efficient and easy as it may be to stream and download the entertainment of your choice, whether it’s movies or television shows or albums or video games, it’s becoming more and more crucial to actually purchase and own the physical media of the entertainment that you love and enjoy (just ask Lord Castleton, who could have easily stayed his ass home and downloaded Red Dead Redemption 2 on his XBox One, but chose not to) if only because there is no guarantee that what you stream and download will always be available to you, and physical media makes it easier to watch/listen/play something whenever you want and as often as you want without having to be reliant on Wi-Fi and Internet service to do so.

2) Too many companies, and the people who run them, are making it more evident that they care very little about movies as an art form and care about movies only as a way to make themselves lots of money. (It’s just one reason why Johnny Depp is still playing Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald and hasn’t been replaced by Christopher Plummer or Teddy Perkins, despite the fact that plenty of people have voiced their anger and disgust at his involvement). It’s difficult enough to get most studio executives and every other shot-caller who works alongside them to understand that representation and diversity matters, both in front of and behind the cameras, and it’s also difficult to get most of them to realize that hashtags like #MeToo and #TimesUp wouldn’t be necessary if they’d get some damn Act-Right and stop sexually assaulting/harassing every woman and man that they work with, so it’s not all that surprising that they’re willing to treat the motion pictures that broke so much ground and made their industry possible in the first place as old things to be ignored and forgotten about, until they decide to either remake said films or until they include these films in yet another overlong, unnecessary, and self-congratulatory montage at the Academy Awards in which they pat themselves on the back on how far they’ve come and how wonderful it is to watch and be in the movies.

There is so much more to movies than what Marvel and DC will put out as their next films (and I say that as someone who likes and enjoys what they do, so please put down your pitchforks), but for the sake of everyone who love movies, who love watching them, who hope to one day write and/or direct them…who hope to learn everything about them so they can discuss them with others and even teach others about their history and how they were made and the time periods and circumstances that led to the creation of many films…there needs to be resources available to everyone that make it possible to acquire knowledge and consumption of movies in order to help develop appreciation for them, and streaming services like FilmStruck and cable channels like Turner Classic Movies are just a couple of those resources. (Cleopatra Jones airing on Turner Classic Movies at 4 in the morning is how and why I have it saved on my DVR, as it’s inexplicably difficult to find on either DVD or Blu-ray despite its status as a blaxploitation classic)

Here’s hoping that Warner Bros. realizes what a beloved and valuable resource they have in the form of FilmStruck, and changes their minds about kicking it to the curb just because they don’t see how they could financially and personally benefit from its existence. (The less said about how badly Warner Bros. fucked up in also shutting down DramaFever, the streaming service for people who love to watch K-Dramas and other Asian programming, the better.) And if they don’t, there are thankfully other (legal) ways and means to access classic films that aren’t readily available elsewhere and are able to provide the artistic nourishment that many of us can’t and won’t get from watching Netflix.



Brian Richards is a Staff Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.



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