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How Hulu Found a Subscriber Lure in Obscure Films

Toni Servillo in La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)
Toni Servillo in La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)Photograph by Gianni Fiorito/Punto e Virgola Press Office via AP Photo

In the warring factions that dominate pay TV, big-budget original series have become the weapon of choice for almost every player, from HBO to Netflix to Amazon. Hulu has plenty of its own originals, but for the past three years it has battled for new subscribers with what some might consider an oddity: obscure art films that are, for the most part, known only to cinephiles.

The Criterion Collection, a New York video distributor that has also restored the technical quality of much of its aged library, says it sells films that are “the defining moments of cinema” from a range of acclaimed directors such as Akira Kurosawa, Luis Buñuel, Charlie Chaplin, Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, and François Truffaut.