Time for a quick reality check: As far as movies are concerned, the streaming era sucks. Having decimated the video store business, Netflix has turned its back on it, and now operates like a combination cable channel and subscription-based film studio, with a library of titles smaller than what a mom-and-pop store would have had 15 years ago. And it keeps shrinking. (Amazon’s Prime Video is estimated to have four or five times as many films, which still makes it smaller than a well-stocked indie video store.) If you want to watch Bright or Mute or War Machine or whatever misbegotten project the streaming titan might be blowing tens of millions of dollars on this week, then you’re in luck. But if you want to see a movie made before, say, 1960, your options are limited to two dozen titles, literally half of which are U.S. Army propaganda and informational films from World War II.
Obviously, no one has the resources to compete with a company that has a more than 50 percent share of the American market. That leaves curation as one non-brick-and-mortar alternative. Turner Classic Movies’ arthouse-centric FilmStruck (better known as the current streaming home of the Criterion Collection, which makes up about two-thirds of its library) has emerged as a strong contender, at least for American viewers; though its selection remains modest, it’s at least well-picked. And now, as Variety reports, the service will be adding 600 or so titles as it absorbs the streaming side of Warner Bros.’ Warner Archive service, which also offers print-on-demand DVDs of lesser-known titles. In addition, existing Warner Archive streaming accounts will be moved over FilmStruck.
Smaller, artier, niche-ier streaming services like FilmStruck, Fandor, and MUBI aren’t going to overtake Netflix, any more than a quality corner restaurant is likely to put the Golden Arches out of business. But for those who aren’t lucky enough to live in a town with a quality public library or a deep-catalog indie video store (they still exist and they’re great), it’s this or piracy. At least they won’t be spending the money on movies in big-studio fire sales.