“Feeln” Like Streaming a Classic Movie?

Last week Roku highlighted the Feeln app showing Dances with Wolves. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Academy Award-winning film so I clicked to watch it. What I found in the Feeln app was a treasure trove of excellent films from the past. It was like having a library of all those great films I want to watch over and over—those titles that I never got around to buying digitally. These classics are part of Feeln’s recent rebrand of what started as “SpiritClips.”

Feeln is actually much more than classic films. It’s a streaming service that is geared to showing films for the whole family to share. Make no mistake about it, these are not just sappy made-for-TV movies. The SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) service was founded by feature film producer, Rob Fried, whose credits—Hoosiers and Rudy—fit right into the inspirational feel-good genre of the service.

Feeln started out in 2010 as “SpiritClips.” Despite a name that brings to mind religious films, it was created by Fried as a website that would stream inspirational short videos. The videos had themes of generosity, heroic deeds, and good morals. Most of these videos have high production value, are under 10 minutes, and star name actors. It wasn’t long before Hallmark saw the service as a way to move into video streaming. Fried polled his subscribers who agreed that the Hallmark Hall of Fame library fit in with the theme of the short films.

In 2012, Hallmark acquired SpiritClips and made it a subsidiary. The Hallmark Hall of Fame library was added to SpiritClips. Titles included not only movies made for the Hallmark channel, but its classic made-for-TV Hallmark specials that starred award-winning actors like James Garner, JoAnne Woodward, Sissy Spacek, Angela Lansbury, Diane Wiest, and many more.

When Hallmark approached Fried about the acquisition, he realized it was time to change his business plan. As he told me in a phone interview, it became apparent that the service “was not a short film subscription video-on-demand company, it was a subscription video-on-demand company with a sensibility. And the goal was to either produce or license content that had a similar sensibility.” Feeln still produces a video each week for the service. Some are under 10 minutes like the original shorts but increasingly the videos are creeping upwards to 45 minutes in length. But this realization started him on a search for feature films that had the same sensibilities.

Fried explained that for a movie to be chosen for Feeln, it is “not only a life-affirming story, but a well-made entertaining film” that he would want to share with his sons. That mission is shared on the Feeln website, which states that movies chosen for the streaming service must fit specific criteria. Anything watched on Feeln “must have an uplifting story with extraordinary writing, acting, and directing. It must be so well-crafted that it moves, delights, or inspires.” It must pass the “together” test,”—it must be a film you want to watch with your whole family. In fact, under the information for each film on the website, there is a description as to why it was lists why it was added to the Feeln library.

A short list of titles includes Gandhi, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Ghostbusters, Babe, The Karate Kid, Fiddler on the Roof, Jerry Maguire, Forrest Gump, and many more. Movies are put into Feeln categories to suit your mood. “Feeln Like Laughing” brings up titles like Ghostbustesr and The Gods Must be Crazy. “Feeln Romantic” includes On Golden Pond. No matter the category there is a list of excellent movies. Riding Giants, a history of surfing, and the inspiring Paper Clips about how a project about the Holocaust changed Whitwell Tennessee, are just two of the quality documentaries.

According to Fried, Feeln’s crew has a great appreciation for the theater-going experience. He talked about the addition of movies from the 1930s and 1940s—classics from great directors like Frank Capra. Because movies are hand-picked for Feeln, subscribers can try movies they don’t know with the confidence that it will be a great film and viewing experience. To bring back the feeling of “going to the movies,” a short Feeln-produced video will play prior to the feature presentation.

The monthly subscription is $4.99 or $48 per year—the price of renting one movie per month. The account can be shared in that 2 movies can be played simultaneously on different devices. The Feeln app can be activated on up to six devices. The app is available on Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, Xbox 360, iOS and Android phones and tablets as well as on Google TV and Kindle Fire. Movies are streamed in 1080p, however Feeln uses adaptive streaming technology similar to Netflix to downgrade quality for slower internet speeds.