Netflix is on the hunt for new content again, and this time it's bagged some game you've likely never heard of -- yet.
The streaming site announced Thursday morning that it had reached a deal with independent film studio Radius-TWC, the multi-platform branch of Hollywood titans The Weinstein Company.
The deal will bring select features from that studio to the Netflix streaming section "by the beginning of 2013," and will include "Bachelorette," starring Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher (available on-demand and on iTunes now and coming to theaters September 7); "The Details," with Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks, which premiered at January's Sundance Festival; and "Only God Forgives," the latest film from director Nicholas Winding Refn, who helmed the indie hit "Drive."
Here's a raunchy, totally NSFW trailer for "Bachelorette," perhaps the cornerstone of the deal:
In its recent spate of acquisitions Netflix has shown a willingness to take bets on independent films and filmmakers: In a splashy deal with The Weinstein Company earlier this year, for example, Netflix announced that it would be the first outlet to make available "The Artist," the (mostly) silent Academy Award winner for Best Picture from 2012, as well as several other foreign-language movies. That deal was followed by the film critic Roger Ebert complaining that Netflix no longer streamed enough indie movies, a charge Netflix denied.
This deal will likely please indie lovers like Ebert but should do little to satisfy the Netflix critics who still want to see more blockbuster films available to stream via Netflix Instant. Though CEO Reed Hastings recently penned a letter to assure investors (and subscribers) that hits like "The Avengers" and "The Hunger Games" were coming to Netflix soon, the service's greatest weakness remains its library selection, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey.
You can expect, then, a flurry of deals like this one in the coming months to firm up the catalogue; and, as several of Netflix's existing content deals with major studios will lapse in the coming two years, you can also expect some larger acquisitions, as Netflix will have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on new content. If that "Bachelorette" trailer didn't quite get you excited about that monthly $8 you're plunking down, stay tuned: There is probably a whole lot more content news for Netflix coming up soon.
Want to know how you can find the best movies on Netflix and get the most out of your account? Check out our handy guide here. And for a few intriguing Netflix alternatives, flip through the slideshow below:
Crackle was bought by Sony in 2006 (when it was a startup called Grouper), and now its streaming-only movie and TV library features mostly Sony productions. It is free to watch, and you don't have to register, but you do have to sit through advertisements that break up your movie. The options are fairly limited right now--there are about 250 full-length movies and episodes from 50 TV shows, though apparently Crackle adds about 10 of each every month. The quality of the options is pretty good, however; I've been watching "Pineapple Express" since lunch, and I'm moving on to the original "Bad Boys" when that's done. The stream looks great at 480p on my laptop, though would probably pixellate on a television screen. PROS: Totally free, no registration required; varied quality options; user-friendly website design; good picture on laptop for free service; free iPhone, iPad and Android app. CONS: Ads, ads, ads; limited quantity of movies and especially TV shows; no DVD rental option.
A startup founded in 2004 and purchased by Wal-Mart in 2010, Vudu is a movie-streaming service that prides itself on two key features: first, it has a database of high definition, 1080p movies that is larger than any other website's; and second, it is accessible on any device that connects to the Internet, from PlayStation 3s and Blu-Ray Players, to laptops and Internet-enabled TVs. Vudu is compatible with over 300 devices and works as a simple laptop movie streamer, too. The selection is terrific--over 20,000 movies are available-- though the payment option (for me) is not as terrific. Renting a movie for two days costs between $2 and $7, depending on the desirability of the movie and the streaming quality. A new release in high definition at $7 for 2 days? Pass. PROS: High definition streaming; terrific selection of new releases and classics; great "Collections" sections, including my personal favorite, a "Best of Rotten Tomatoes" playlist. CONS: Pay-per-view on-demand system can get very expensive very fast; no DVD rental.
That ".org" is not a typo: Facets Multi-Media is a Chicago-based non-profit founded in 1975 as a film appreciation group that now has a monthly DVD-by-mail rental system similar to Netflix's. There are over 75,000 movies in its warehouse, and one-out-at-a-time plans are $8.99 a month or $90 a year. If you're a little squeamish about signing up for a year, the monthly plan is one dollar more than the new Netflix DVD-only plan ($7.99), but perhaps you can justify the extra expense with the knowledge you're supporting a non-profit. As a film appreciation society, Facets has a great selection of rare and imported films, as well as playlists curated by "experts" that are worth checking out. PROS: Reasonably priced DVD-by-mail rentals from a non-profit; excellent selection of independent and foreign films; recommendation lists from Werner Herzog, Stephen Sondheim, Dan Savage, and other notables. CONS: No streaming (yet--a company spokesperson says it's on its way); cannot match Netflix's prices, even after the price hike.
San Francisco-based GreenCine is Netflix for film buffs; they have "an accent on independent, art house, classics, foreign, documentary, anime and Asian cinema," as their website boasts. With over 30,000 DVDs available for rent at plans starting at $9.95 per month (which lets you take out one video at a time), it's a little more expensive than Netflix for mail rental, but that is the price you pay for Greencine's "eclection" (again, per their website). Not included in your monthly fee are on-demand rentals: rather than streaming, you download the movie on DivX. Most of those rentals are $5 for 30 days with the DRM-protected flick. So, streaming is available, but only for a price. PROS: Awesome online selection of niche films, including anime, indie, and foreign; Blu-Rays available; DivX-quality watching on computer CONS: The prices. More expensive than Netflix, and the per-rental fee for streaming is way too high unless you are only streaming one movie a month
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