Streaming service MUBI recently announced that “Junun,” the latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson, would have its exclusive worldwide release via their subscription-based streaming platform. The film premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 8 before becoming available online on MUBI in more than 200 territories the following day.
In a recent interview with Screen Daily, MUBI CEO Efe Cakarel emphasized the curation aspect of the service and said he would never allow a Michael Bay film on MUBI. “If Michael Bay had a film he wanted to show on MUBI? The answer is no. That’s when you start losing the brand. That’s when the Coen brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson leave MUBI,” Cakarel said. “‘Transformers 4’ was a bad film. We say it loud and clear,” he added.
Cakarel’s comments regarding Bay have only helped to publicize the service which U.S. audiences may not have heard of until now, even though MUBI has seven million users across 200 countries. They’re also a bit disingenuous given that it’s unlikely that “Transformers 4” would ever screen on MUBI. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get back to basics.
What the heck is MUBI?
MUBI is a streaming service that bills itself as “the ultimate destination for watching the world’s best films.” It’s basically an alternative to more mainstream and much larger streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Instead of featuring a vast collection of films, MUBI is highly curated. the service streams 30 films at a time on its site with a new film replacing another every day.
Launched in 2007 under the name The Auteurs, MUBI is a subscription service which charges a monthly subscription rate of $4.99. Up until now, it’s been more popular in Europe than in the U.S.
What kind of films does MUBI show?
Well, it used to call itself The Auteurs and it is screening a new short film by Paul Thomas Anderson. So obviously, it is catering to the Indiewire crowd. MUBI programs an international selection of festival favorites, award-winning documentaries and classic indies. Right now, for instance, their monthly selections include Park Chan-Wook’s “Oldboy,” Greg Araki’s “Mysterious Skin,” John Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under the Influence” and Chantal Akerman’s “Almayer’s Folly.”
The films are tailored by region so that users in France, for instance, won’t have access to the same films as in the U.S.
How and why did Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film land on MUBI?
According to Cakarel, “PTA was one of those 7 million people on the platform watching movies and really liking the experience. One day I got an email from him and we began a wonderful conversation [about ‘Junun’],” Cakarel. told Fast Company. “This was a very personal project for him and he wanted to show it to a discerning audience.”
Cakarel is trying to position this coup as a sign of things to come, but will this buzz-worthy acquisition turn out to be a one-off? Or a trend where auteurs come directly to MUBI? Given that “Junun” isn’t your typical film — it’s a 54-minute musical documentary which, as Eric Kohn wrote in his NYFF review “eschews context and lets the audiovisual design speak for itself” — it’s unlikely that it will set any precedents in the industry.
READ MORE: NYFF Review: Paul Thomas Anderson is Trying Something Different with ‘Junun’