Turner is launching a Netflix for cinephiles

Kyūzō trains in the rain in “Seven Samurai.”
Kyūzō trains in the rain in “Seven Samurai.”
Image: FilmStruck screenshot/Toho/Criterion Collection
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Soon, you’ll have no excuse not to watch Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy that your film school friend keeps telling you is an unadulterated masterpiece.

Time Warner’s Turner is launching an ad-free streaming service aimed exclusively at film aficionados that will include hundreds of classic and contemporary arthouse, indie, and foreign films (pdf). The service, called FilmStruck, is the joint enterprise of Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and the Criterion Collection, the curator that has licensed thousands of important movies, from Seven Samurai to The Silence of the Lambs. Turner has not yet announced how much the service will cost. It will launch sometime this fall.

The entire Criterion Collection will migrate to FilmStruck from Hulu, which has owned the collection’s streaming rights since 2011. Before that, the films belonged to Netflix.

But as both Netflix and Hulu have focused less on film and more on television, including developing their own shows, some say it’s left a potential opportunity in the streaming marketplace for a service geared more towards cinephiles.

The audience interested in streaming classic titles might seem niche, but TCM estimates that there are a lot of Americans who’d be willing to pony up for the service. Coleman Breland, president of TCM, told Bloomberg that there are 10 to 15 million Americans interested in paying for these types of movies—nearly the same amount of people that pay for broadband internet but not cable TV and targeted by streaming services like HBO Now, Hulu, and Amazon Video.

However large or small the audience, it’s a loyal (and enthusiastic) one, which makes its members valuable consumers. With the Criterion Collection and TCM involved, FilmStruck will have the type of built-in curation and stamps of approval that some popular streaming services lack.

According to Bloomberg, FilmStruck will refresh a catalog of 500 movies every month, and will offer a separate pricing tier that will let subscribers have permanent access to all Criterion Collection films. The indispensable part of the service is the Criterion Collection—a traveling bundle of many of the greatest films of all time that’s constantly adding new titles to the compendium.

The story of the Criterion Collection is really a microcosm for how viewing methods have changed in the last 30 years. Started in 1984, it’s moved from laser disc, to DVD, to Blu-ray, and now to online streaming. The platforms may have changed, but the films—timeless classics from masters like Bergman, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, and Kubrick—and people’s love for them, have not.

Criterion Collection did not immediately respond to a request for comment.