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Criterion Channel, a streaming home for classic cinema, launches with more than 1,000 films

Criterion Channel, a streaming home for classic cinema, launches with more than 1,000 films
Ann Blyth and Joan Crawford in "Mildred Pierce," which is featured on the new Criterion Channel streaming service. (UCLA Film & Television Archive)

More than four months after the closure of FilmStruck, Criterion Collection’s library of classic films has officially returned to the streaming realm.

Criterion Channel, a subscription service owned and operated by New York-based Criterion Collection, launched Monday with more than 1,000 cinematic oldies and important contemporary films, including such landmarks as David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man” and the Coen brothers’ “Blood Simple.”

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The new service was announced in mid-November following a social media outcry after AT&T Inc.-owned WarnerMedia said it was shutting down FilmStruck, which previously showcased the Criterion films as well as Warner Bros. classics.

FilmStruck’s Nov. 29 demise sparked fears among cinephiles that it would become harder for people to access older films and rarities online. Acclaimed filmmakers including Guillermo del Toro, Edgar Wright and Steven Spielberg lobbied to save the service in some fashion.

The new standalone Criterion Channel will charge subscribers $10.99 a month, or $100 for those who pay for a full year at once. People who signed up early received a discount. In addition to the Criterion Collection’s robust library, the service will include licensed films from major and independent studios, the group said.

Like FilmStruck, Criterion Channel aims to organize collections of movies for movie lovers to discover hidden treasures and view behind-the-scenes features not available on other services.

One of the app’s featured collections, “Columbia Noir,” highlights pulpy films produced by Columbia Pictures in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, such as Fritz Lang’s “The Big Heat” (1953) and Jacques Tourneur’s “Nightfall” (1957). Another highlights 14 films by French New Wave pioneer Agnes Varda, who died at 90 last month. The Criterion Edition of “Mildred Pierce” features a full-length documentary on Joan Crawford’s career.

Other featured gems this month include:

  • Barbara Loden’s “Wanda.”

  • Four features and six shorts by David Lynch.

  • Seven films by Italian screenwriter Suso Cecchi d'Amico.

  • Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole.”

  • Musical gangster comedy “Bugsy Malone,” starring a young Jodie Foster.

Criterion Channel will have new films and programs added daily, the collection said.

Movies from the Criterion Collection also are expected to become part of WarnerMedia’s upcoming multi-tier streaming service, which is expected to launch in late 2019. Pricing and programming details for WarnerMedia’s larger service have not been announced.

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