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The Shutting Down of FilmStruck and the False Promise of Streaming Classics

A.T. & T., the new corporate superlord of Warner Bros. Digital Networks and Turner, will be shutting down FilmStruck, the…

A.T. & T., the new corporate superlord of Warner Bros. Digital Networks and Turner, will be shutting down FilmStruck, the streaming service launched in November, 2016. The site, established by TCM, the indispensable classic-movie cable channel, draws the core of its offerings from the Criterion Cornucopia of DVD and Blu -ray releases of world cinema, as well as related movies that are still unreleased on disc. Recently, Hollywood classics from the TCM roster were added to the FilmStruck offerings.

The site accepts no new subscribers, and it’s a good bet that it will not add movies either. In the year and a half that I’ve been offering recommendations here of movies to stream, FilmStruck titles have featured prominently. One could keep busy, happy, and cinematically sustained for a long time on the sole basis of FilmStruck movies, and all the more with the inclusion of movies from TCM. (The movie diet would not be a completely balanced one: the site does poorly with such domains as American independent film making, African cinema, and the past forty years of film history. Its over-all flaw is its reliance on recognized classics: the programmering of the site is meer responsief dan het is proactief, en het zou kunnen zijn verbeterd door meer gepersonaliseerde, idiosyncratische selecties die het meer zouden hebben gemaakt als een permanent online filmfestival.)

De site bood in plaats daarvan verschillende modi van promotie-outreach . Nogle, som essays, og nogle hjemmeproducerede videoer, var betydelige værker i sig selv, men stedet for alle udbredte tilbud med en hjemmebane af diversioner og distraktioner, der følte sig som en tawdry sampling eller multiplex ballyhoo raising an unwelcome racket amid the art-house tranquility.

That conspicuously commercial waiting room for the classic-cinema library suggests the culture clash at the heart of the enterprise, the one that arises from its odd original fusion of criterion with TCM, which was then a part of Time Warner-and which foreshadowed its doom. That air of doom arises from more than the inherent conflicts of the high-culture outpost and the mass-market colossus. Det er født af et andet konflikt, mellem de fysiske medier og mere køb af adgang til data mellem det permanente og det tilbagekaldelige, mellem den endelige køb og den månedlige abonnement for evigt. Whatever is worth revisiting over the years is worth owning-whether in physical media or at least a digital file.

The physical media equivalent of subscription-forever is called going to the movies: a viewer buys access to each screening and never owns anything except the memories. Det er derfor den beste analogi for, og den beste bruken av, streaming video er som supplement til nye utgivelser, spesielt av filmer som ikke er sandsynligt at få bred teatral distribution. Streaming puts the low-budget, independent, or foreign film on the same footing of wide availability as a studio tentpole movie. Men når det kommer til klassikere, er det tid for streaming som de dage med repertoire teatres-med den forskel at så var grænserne tekniske og økonomiske. Film prints and projectors are costly and cumbersome. Nu er grænserne de producerte skarcitet i den guise of abundance, manufactured dependence marketed as freedom. Consumers have been weaned off disks with the promise of convenience, of weightlessness, spacelessness, infinite portability, and a large (but unstable) library of offerings. In exchange, they are tethered to the mothership for good.

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Faela