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Before the arrival of Hulu, which was once the exclusive streaming hub of the Criterion Collection, many cinephiles had to go to great lengths to stream their favorite – or to explore new – independent films from the comfort of their own home. Then, in 2016, FilmStruck appeared, and quickly took the mantle as film buffs’ new preferred streaming archive of Criterion classics. The film community breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a one-stop shop to feast on some of the best that cinematic history has to offer. Despite complaints about interface functionality, the film community largely appreciated the platform for both the breadth of films available and for its convenience. For those who subscribed for years, it felt cataclysmic when FilmStruck folded in late November of 2018. 

“Chungking Express” (1994), dir. Kar-Wai Wong

A Streaming Service for Cinephiles

Since then, The Criterion Channel, which launched this April, has become a mainstay for independent, foreign language, and classic film lovers. Featuring much of the same programming as its spiritual predecessor, the service provides a home for the Criterion Collection, including upwards of 1,000 core feature films, 3500 supplemental materials like interviews, video essays and more, in addition to over 350 shorts. The channel continues series originally found on FilmStruck like “Adventures in Moviegoing,” “Meet the Filmmakers” and “Observations on Film Art.” However, unlike FilmStruck, The Criterion Channel licenses movies from studios like Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Sony Picture, IFC Films, and more.

“Stalker” (1979), dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

For subscribers who paid for the platform in advance of the subscription service’s release, Criterion made sure that cinephiles had something to look forward to, with a film from the Collection available each week before the platform went live, like “Chungking Express” and “Stalker.” Similar to FilmStruck, The Criterion Channel announces a curated line of the month, like a double feature on Fridays and a short and feature pairing on Tuesdays. Yesterday’s short plus feature program, for example, was “Dodes’ka-den” from Akira Kurosawa and “Tidy Up” from Satsuki Okawa. With everything from Hitchcock to Ozu, Varda to Bergman, The Criterion Channel is an absolute necessity for film lovers.

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