• A Long Time Coming

    By Peter Becker

    HULU

    It’s not often that you get to say you are going to meet millions of new people on a single day while making a wish come true for many of your oldest friends, but that is exactly what is happening to the Criterion Collection today, as we go live with a major exclusive new offering on Hulu.

    When I first started working at the Criterion Collection about seventeen years ago, I remember coming across a file box full of typed and handwritten letters that viewers had sent to Jon Mulvaney, our longtime customer liaison. At that time, the company was sometimes referred to as the “Rolls-Royce of laserdiscs”—an honor, to be sure, but one that was meaningful to a vanishingly small sliver of the American public. Many of our editions sold hundreds, not even thousands, of copies, at prices as high as $125 for a single film, but we had a very dedicated audience of movie lovers who had come to value Criterion for our commitment to quality, and for the array of special features we had pioneered starting in 1984, when we published the first ever commentary tracks and special features to appear alongside motion pictures.

    It is tempting to say that a lot has changed since then, but the truth is, even more has remained constant. We don’t make laserdiscs anymore, but we are still dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and using the latest technology to present them in editions that will deepen viewers’ appreciation and understanding of the art of cinema. Customers still write to Jon Mulvaney all the time, but now instead of pens and typewriters, they send him e-mail or post to our Facebook page or Twitter.

    When I think back to all the letters I read that day, I realize that even the subjects of those letters haven’t changed much at all. Most were and are passionate pleas for us to release a favorite film or seek out a particular director’s work, but then, as now, one of the most common requests was for some kind of subscription program that would give customers access to everything we put out.

    Starting today, there are more than 150 of our most important films online on the Hulu Plus subscription service. Over the coming months, that number will swell to more than 800 films. For the true cinephile, this should be a dream come true. On Hulu Plus, you’ll find everything in our library, from Academy Award winners to many of the most famous films by art-house superstars like Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, and Federico Fellini to films so rare that they have never been seen in the U.S. in any medium. Some of these lost gems have been so hard to see that even most of the Criterion staff will see them for the first time only when they go live on Hulu Plus! Each month, we’ll be highlighting a mix of programs, centered on themes, directors, actors, and other creative artists, as well as celebrity picks, and mixing them with deep cuts from the catalog that will be unknown to all but the most prominent cinephiles in the world.

    Criterion has always been a company driven by its mission, not by any particular medium, and while we still see our core business as producing the world’s best DVD and Blu-ray versions of the world’s best films, this new venture with Hulu represents a huge expansion of our reach. Not only will Hulu users have access to the largest digital archive of Criterion movies for the first time, Hulu Plus subscribers will now be able to stream our films (and yes, before long, many of our supplements too!) on a wide array of devices, including iPhones, iPads, PlayStations, and Internet-connected television sets.

    And finally, why Hulu? In short, because they get it. As their regular viewers know, the Hulu user experience is exactly what it should be: simple, elegant, and focused on the content. Hulu has built their brand on letting the shows and movies take center stage. Nobody does it better, and we’re honored that they see Criterion as a good match for their audience. We’re going to do all we can to make the experience of Criterion on Hulu Plus an exciting adventure for all of us, so please check it out and let us know what you think. (For more details on how it will work, here’s a blog post by Hulu’s Eugene Wei.)

     

134 comments

  • By John
    February 17, 2011
    01:17 PM

    VUDU!!! No subscription fees and the only one streaming in 1080P. Ok, probably more compression then a Blu-Ray, but way better then Netflix or Hulu and you don't have to pay a dime until you actually want to watch the movie. Please put your movies there! - John
    Reply
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  • By Bossi D.
    February 17, 2011
    03:19 PM

    you will all pay $8 for a super sized double quarter pounder with cheese extra value meal, yet you complain about having hundreds of classic films at your fingertips, streamed in perfectly acceptable quality, for $8 a month, as your VHS collection continues to "appreciate in value." forgive me for allowing myself to indulge in the ridiculousness of this thread but it had to be done.
    Reply
  • By Ovid
    February 17, 2011
    03:31 PM

    @ What About Andy? You make an eloquent case for the old ways, and your love for these physical artifacts and the craftsmanship that go into them is apparent. I love independent book stores, and you have my sincere respect for that alone. But the times are changing, and Criterion has no choice but to keep abreast of those changes. All change involves some gain and some loss, and ultimately consumers choose in favor of the balance that benefits them most. If you make the argument that Bergman and Kurosawa weren't meant to be watched on iPhones and laptops, you're basically arguing that Criterion (and home video in general) have no right to exist since those directors' films were meant to be watched on the big screen, with other people. Once you step out of that original context, where you draw the line is really arbitrary. If I'm in a hotel room, the option of being able to watch any one of hundreds of Criterion films on my laptop or iPad (whose screen, when held inches from my face, looks quite large indeed) instead of the trashy pay-per-view hotel movies is an option too good to pass up. It sure beats lugging around a DVD player and hundreds of DVDs. And when I'm at home I just stream through my Roku box to my TV at quality better than DVD and slowly inching its way towards 1080p. Many (most) of the films I watch I wouldn't have bought anyway, I would simply have rented. If a film is dear enough to me to have to own it then I'll buy the Blu-ray, but I realized a long time ago (albeit after buying hundreds of DVDs) that I rarely watch the DVDs I own and just couldn't justify spending that much money for something I would use once, twice, or maybe an absolute maximum of five times. Few people have unlimited budgets, and I'd rather put my money where it does the most good.
    Reply
  • By John-Michael
    February 17, 2011
    03:53 PM

    I think this is a fantastic moment. I probably will not take advantage of the service because I regularly buy Criterion discs. They do such a great job with these films. They look and sound amazing! Streaming services are just nowhere near the quality of the discs, especially blu-ray. Beyond that I appreciate the much more tangible experience of owning a physical representation of the art. Its just no fun collecting file names. So why am I excited? If it hadn't been for NetFlix and the internet I would have a much, much narrower conception of cinema and be that much poorer for it. Without the internet I would have been largely limited to what the video stores carry and what Best Buy stocks. I don't live in a major city or college town so there is no way to get beyond recent blockbusters and a narrow range of classics. Criterion's efforts with Hulu amount to one of the largest disseminations of art to the less advantaged in society that I am aware of. I have a great difficulty in seeing that as anything other than a wonderful thing. There will always be a market for physical media. People will always collect. While the market for discs as a whole will inevitably shrink, Criterion customers largely strike me as the collecting sort. I only see this as boosting their disc sales through expanded awareness while bestowing an impressive gift upon society. I am sure similar services will be avilable in other countries before long.
    Reply
  • By Blair
    February 17, 2011
    04:21 PM

    It's pretty amazing how we the consumer have become so spoiled in the past few years, and yet we continue to complain while technology only makes things more amazing for us. Take Criterion. Before Netflix, I had to pay roughly $4-5 to rent movies individually from my local video store (my local library had few Criterion movies available). So okay, rent from the video store (or purchase discs online/local retailer, however that is very expensive IMO). Then when Netflix came along I was able to rent Criterion discs for a monthly fee. Wonderful. Then a lot of Criterion titles came to streaming, even better. But of course streaming meant no supplements that I sometimes cherish. So now Criterion leaves Netflix streaming, however still gives Netflix customers the option to rent discs. Instead we can pay $8 a month to stream their entire collection plus supplements (eventually). And we are complaining about this? Think about how far we have come. It wasn't long ago that I had to pay to rent each title individually. And now for the price of two movie rentals back in the day I can watch as much Criterion as I can handle for a month. If you don't realize how amazing that is, then I don't know what to tell you. I understand the Netflix streaming members who may be upset about this. But let's also look at this with a more level head. I'm guessing the majority of Netflix streaming only members still have a DVD or BD player attached to their TVs. They can pay $2 more a month and get the Criterion disc if they really want to watch them. Also I just looked on the Hulu Plus website and it's amazing how many options there are for streaming devices. I say bravo to Criterion. The future of home movie film viewing is streaming (and yes BD quality streaming will come in due time). We sure have come a long way in little time.
    Reply
  • By Kevin D.
    February 17, 2011
    06:15 PM

    Echoing the sentiments of many already, y'all need to tell us what's up with Netflix in light of this announcement. There was some fanfare when Criterion and Netflix announced a loose partnership some time ago, so what's the deal now?
    Reply
  • By jim k
    February 18, 2011
    04:17 PM

    While I'm not a fan of streaming, this is good news in a couple ways even for a tech luddite such as myself. The affordability of the deal is fantastic, as is the idea of the whole catalog becoming available. The second reason I like this is more selfish. Working in a respected and large independent record store that carries loads of used dvds, I'm envisioning plenty of people selling their hard copy Criterion titles to the shop. As one that enjoys actually holding a physical product in my hands and reading the extensive liner notes, it looks like I'll need to find some more shelf space rather soon.
    Reply
  • By C
    February 20, 2011
    03:54 PM

    I don't see this as a loss for Netflix at all. It was a stupid move on Criterion's part, if you ask me. I was just checking out Hulu's category section. They don't even have a genre for foreign films. But Criterion is getting their own ~special section~ so that's all that matters. This will obviously bring more appreciation to their collection, right? I don't think so. There's more of an audience for their films on Netflix. But whatever. Doesn't Hulu Plus still have ads? How is showing commercials before their films "better representing them" ? Haha. Money talks.
    Reply
  • By JB
    February 20, 2011
    09:00 PM

    I just signed up for Hulu Plus. Criterion's presence leaves a lot to be desired. For starters, I am surprised that such a director-focused company has no way for users to browse by, well, director. In fact, many of the movie descriptions don't even mention the director. Second, Hulu itself. It's not immediately intuitive how one rates movies in order to tailor recommendations. "Nobody does it better"? Actually, I think MUBI does, and it's regrettable they're being left out in the cold in favor of the Glee Internet Network. In any event, I hope Criterion will continue to improve its user experience on Hulu, since this appears to be the way it's going to be from here on out.
    Reply
  • By Cody Short
    February 22, 2011
    09:59 AM

    Adding movies to Hulu is cool, but pulling them from Netflix? WHAT? Criterion on Netflix has been the best thing that ever happened to my TV. I'm TERRIBLY disappointed. Come on. Turn this thing around.
    Reply
  • By Anthony
    February 22, 2011
    06:32 PM

    Really guys? Pulling the films from Netflix and moving to a subpar service? Thanks. You guys just made me question your ability to think.
    Reply
  • By Froggy
    March 01, 2011
    10:48 AM

    Re: STREAMING VIDEO I run everything through my computer with an H.I.S. 5770 video card and/or then through my ONKYO 608 then to my HDTV - ALL with 1.4a HDMI cables (PS3 thru the receiver only) I can't not tell the difference between most streaming and BluRay the quality is so good I think it depends on your system You need at least 5 mbps speed from your ISP Hope that helps OH, the 7.1 sound is incredible! Hope that is helpful I
    Reply
  • By oral seymour
    March 02, 2011
    05:06 PM

    If you made the move for financial reasons then say so but the crap about better experience? Please spare me.....Netflix doesn't have ads, Hulu does and I still see ads on my Hulu plus subscription even though I am paying money.
    Reply
  • By BLS
    March 26, 2011
    03:45 PM

    All I want to say is: MATTHEW rocks. Well-played comments, sir!
    Reply
  • By David Kelly
    April 16, 2011
    10:54 PM

    I am especially loving this Criterion on HuluPlus thing, now. I am getting more and more titles on HuluPlus, via Criterion, that AREN'T EVEN OUT in the Collection, yet. Shindo's "Kuroneka" and Antonioni's "Identification of a Woman" just to name two. It's awesome!
    Reply
  • By nicolas
    June 18, 2011
    07:11 PM

    I have no problem with Hulu plus if that is what people want. What I am frustrated about recently is that the new Criterion releases of 2011 are not going to Netflix. I phoned Netflix, but they could not give me a reply. Yet it appears that Criterion will be released on Blockbuster and Classicflix.com. hat is going on here. I sent an email to Criterion, but have not received a response.
    Reply
  • By Bill Pascoe
    August 12, 2012
    09:55 AM

    Having the opportunity to see these movies at all, in whatever quality is far far far more important than seeing them in perfect quality on the right sized screen or in the right country. These movies should be a legacy for humanity, not just entertainment for the rich within nationalist boundaries. Many brilliant films I would not have even been aware of if not coming across them in the my libraries DVD collection. Some of these films have changed the way I look at everything. I don't have $30 per DVD to buy more than a few, let alone the whole collection and I do want to see the whole collection. Please, please make these available in Australia and everywhere at an accessible price.
    Reply
  • By DawnDavenport
    January 19, 2013
    11:10 PM

    please come back to netflix, i love criterion. netflix needs you!
    Reply
  • By RTSpears
    February 15, 2013
    05:07 PM

    God, what a bunch of crybabies. Maybe since I'm new to the Roku/online television experience I don't have the "eyes" yet to make comparisons, but seeing Criterion listings on my Hulu+ account was enough to make it EASY to kill cable, which is what I was testing the waters for in the first place. $7.99 a month! Oh, another $7.99 a month for Netflix. B.F.D!!! Cable's close to $100, with nowhere NEAR the selection, not to mention all the free (admittedly, mostly public domain "fringe" entertainment) content available via streaming. I've had ZERO issues with quality, but again, maybe I'm just not quite a "videophile" as some of these people obviously are. Hey, I enjoy under 10 buck a bottle wine, too, so there you go. Keep it coming, I'm loving this and will definitely stay with Hulu+ well past the free trial I am using now.
    Reply
  • By Bill L
    July 07, 2014
    09:05 PM

    There seems to be numerous Criterion Collection films that are not available on Hulu Plus. Examples: The Third Man; The Mikado; Paddle to the Sea. Why?
    Reply

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