• A Letter from Hulu

    By Eugene Wei

    The following has been cross-posted from the Hulu blog.

    My earliest movie exposure was heavily influenced by what my father could find at the local video store. He’d stop there on the way home from work and pick out one of new releases from the display of empty video boxes that lined the outer walls of the store. And so my early love of movies grew largely from a diet of American Hollywood blockbusters because that’s what dominated the most coveted merchandising space at our local video stores.

    After college, I moved to Seattle, and some movie buffs I met there introduced me to a video store called Scarecrow Video. This was unlike any video store I’d ever encountered. It was enormous, carrying seemingly every movie ever put on video in any format, from VHS to laserdisc to DVD, including PAL videotapes and foreign region DVDs that required renting special machines to play. These were movies from all over the world, in all languages, sorted not just by new versus old but by country, director, and genre. It was at Scarecrow that I rented my first Criterion laser disc. Most of them were so rare that the store required a credit card deposit of several hundred dollars just to walk out of the store with the movie.

    But it was worth it. The Criterion Collection is likely the preeminent distribution brand in the minds of movie buffs. They’ve earned that title in two key ways. One is by curating and licensing rights to a library of truly great, enduring movies. Secondly, when they bring those movies to the world, they do so with an attention to detail and quality that can only come from the purest love and respect for movies as an art form.

    That’s why we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve added the Criterion Collection exclusively to our Hulu Plus service today. Criterion has digital streaming rights to over 800 of the films in their library, from a who’s who roster of directors: Antonioni, Bergman, Bresson, Bunuel, Chabrol, Chaplin, Clouzot, Cocteau, Dreyer, Eisenstein, Fassbinder, Fellini, Godard, Kaurismaki, Kieslowski, Kurosawa, Lang, Malle, Ozu, Renoir, Tati, Truffaut, Varda, and Welles, to name two handfuls. We’re launching with over 150 Criterion movies today, and we’ll be adding more titles each month. Among the launch list today are so many acknowledged classics: The 400 BlowsL’AvventuraThe Battle of AlgiersBreathlessLa JetéeJules and JimMPickpocketPlaytimeRashomonSeven SamuraiLa Strada, and The Wages of Fear.

    But just as exciting are the titles still to come. These include not just more well-known classics but also movies that have been difficult or impossible to find on video in any format. Le Silence de la Mer, by one of my favorite directors, Jean-Pierre Melville. The extended filmography of Kenji Mizoguchi. Early shorts by Chaplin. L’Assassin Habite au 21, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s first feature. This doesn’t even include the supplemental content Criterion is famous for and which we’ll bring to the Criterion experience on Hulu Plus over time: commentaries, documentaries, interviews, original trailers, essays, and more. Many of these will be digitized for the first time. We’re honored to partner with Criterion to make all this cinematic treasure available to movie lovers, critics, and historians alike.

    Movies, unlike most of our TV programs, aren’t shot with ad breaks in mind, and it has always been tricky to find opportune moments to inject ad breaks in movies on Hulu.com so that we can compensate content owners while maintaining the optimum user experience. For Criterion, thanks to our advertising partners, Hulu Plus subscribers will be able to watch the Criterion Collection free of interruption. (Any ads will play up front.) For those who don’t have a Hulu Plus subscription, each month we’ll still rotate a few Criterion titles through Hulu.com with our normal periodic ad breaks.

    The first set of Criterion movies are already available across all devices supported by the Hulu Plus service. On the web, you’ll find Criterion on Hulu at www.hulu.com/criterion. Please dive in and let us know what you think!


  • By Justin Mooney
    February 15, 2011
    07:11 PM

    I will not subscribe to HULU, not ever. This is a bad move. It looks like an overwhelming majority of people feel this way on facebook too. Criterion please re thrink this!
  • By Jun-Dai B.
    February 15, 2011
    11:20 PM

    I'm sad that Criterion has chosen to be exclusive to Hulu. While Hulu seems like the best of the available streaming options, and I appreciate that Hulu was willing to embrace the Criterion brand, it is at the same time unfortunate that this would prevent people who don't use Hulu from being able to stream Criterion releases at all. In general, this kind of exclusivity is a real dent in the potential of movie streaming, as it means people have to maintain different accounts and have different devices for watching movies in what is essentially the same format. Video streaming should bring convergence, and our choices about which streaming service to use should really be about what quality, customer support, community, etc., they provide, and not about what exclusive deals they've signed. In any case, despite my misgivings, I think this will open up a lot of films to a lot of people, so in that regard it's a good thing. Hopefully this exclusivity is just a temporary phase the industry is going through, but somehow I have my doubts…
  • By shaon
    February 16, 2011
    01:32 PM

    I will also never subscribe to Hulu Plus. If they took my subscription money and then removed ads? I would consider it. It is a poor choice for these great movies to be relegated to just Hulu.
  • By Tommy
    February 16, 2011
    02:58 PM

    Scarecrow Video is truly the most incredible home viewing archive anywhere on the planet. Independent video stores - never say die!
  • By Chad G.
    February 16, 2011
    10:31 PM

    Wait a minute, does this mean that Criterion films are going to be taken off Netflix altogether?
  • By RYAN
    February 17, 2011
    01:56 PM

    Hey guys, the discs still exist. You know, those things you kill yourself over then watch once.
    February 17, 2011
    02:42 PM

    I was just about to cancel my Hulu Plus subscription when i got an email from Criterion about the Hulu news. Can't wait for the special features and supplemental material and to veiw the Zatoichi Series from beginning to end! I am the proud owner of over 500 Criterion titles, now when I travel I can still keep up with my "Need To View" list. This does however mean that I will be purchasing less Criterion DVDS and obviously will be keeping my Hulu Plus.
  • By Matt
    February 18, 2011
    09:48 PM

    Scarecrow Video IS unlike any video store ever encountered. Not WAS. We're still here, and still renting Criterion DVDs, laserdiscs, and even some old Home Vision VHS!
  • By Max
    February 22, 2011
    02:36 AM

    This is incredibly disheartening. My parents bought an Apple TV and Netflix subscription on my recommendation mostly for Criterion content. As nice as it is that Hulu will be posting some of the supplementary materials for Criterion titles, is doesn't compensate for the fact that video and audio quality of Criterion titles on Hulu Plus looks muddy and over compressed compared to Netflix. I've really appreciated the quality of Criterion titles via Netflix on my PS3, with HD titles streaming at 9 Mbps preserving the grain and detail on movies like "The Seventh Seal". I signed up for a one week trial of Hulu Plus when I read the news about Criterion being added, and I have to say I'm extremely disappointed by the video quality. 3.2 Mbps flash video doesn't do justice to the incredible transfers and restorations that Criterion is known for. I wonder if this was even considered when the decision was made to go with Hulu Plus. Will Hulu Plus be offering higher bitrate options in the future? As it is, the picture quality could only be described as tolerable. Another problem is that now Criterion films will be seen by almost no-one. Hulu Plus has about 12 subscribers, and unless they get more of the TV content from the PC Hulu, they may not be around for long. Netflix has millions of viewers using their streaming service, and while I understand that Netflix's lack of interest in branding Criterion content was a factor in switching to Hulu Plus, the beautifully designed Criterion covers really stood out from the majority of films on Netflix, and that cant help but enhance the brand. The covers are reduced to a tiny sliver of their full image by the Hulu Plus interface, and the amazing design and composition is lost. This is a such a total bummer.... Farewell, Max
  • By Tanner
    February 22, 2011
    07:10 PM

    I think people are making too big of a deal about Hulu on this stream. Honestly, I like the Hulu Plus thing, if you have something against it, whatever, just buy the dvds or blu-ray, stop complaining. besides, I'd rather see a film online before investing 24 dollars into a film I'll probably only watch twice a year when the mood strikes me(except for a few certain specific favorites). Not to mention that it is pretty cheap, I don't know how much the Netflix thing is, but 8 dollars a month for the ability to watch a ton of great films, I think, is a bargain.
  • By steve
    February 23, 2011
    07:13 PM

    A suggestion: can you please tell to the Hulu people to show the DIRECTOR's name and RELEASE YEAR under the TITLE of movies in the browse section of the Hulu Plus Criterion interface please? They just show the TITLE. Not enough for cinephiles... thanks

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