• A Long Time Coming

    By Peter Becker

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    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.)

     

13 comments

  • By Charmed797
    February 15, 2011
    09:27 AM

    I love Criterion on hulu.
    Reply
  • By Arlene Herring
    February 15, 2011
    10:18 AM

    Congratulations, you're obviously very excited, and I very much appreciate what Criterion has done for movie lovers worldwide over the years, but why can't I find 'Sapphire' in Hulu Plus when 'Victim' and 'League of Gentlemen' are there -- aren't they all part of the same set of Basil Dearden films? Is Hulu Plus the reason we've had to wait so long to rent these (and what other) movies on Netflix? Should I give up my Netflix subscription for a Hulu Plus one? Must I have both?
    Reply
  • By Anthony
    February 15, 2011
    11:34 AM

    Just what I want to watch - Criterion with commercials.
    Reply
  • By Bossi D.
    February 15, 2011
    01:39 PM

    The icing on the cake for me, is the news that supplements will be available as well. I've long wanted to participate more in Criterion's own streaming services, and have streamed some films, but was always a bit let down that the supplemental materials that made Criterion's name (along with their attention to quality) were not included. I personally will be subscribing to hulu plus, immediately. thanks for offering this, Criterion! A job well done, once again.
    Reply
  • By Anna T.
    February 15, 2011
    05:18 PM

    Answers to some of the questions that have been coming up here
    Reply
  • By uk2ga
    February 15, 2011
    10:13 PM

    I'm intrigued by the idea of extras over streaming. That may be enough to persuade me to take another look at Hulu Plus soon.
    Reply
  • By Michael Koresky
    February 16, 2011
    01:13 AM

    Yes, Glenn, imagine a business having to think about....MONEY! Criterion is a business, lest we all forget. Just because they occasionally release Pedro Costa or Naruse films doesn't mean they're somehow above self-preservation.
    Reply
  • By Bossi D.
    February 16, 2011
    01:46 AM

    guys, it's an extra $8 a month to join Hulu. I now have hulu and netflix, thanks to this news. it's still cheaper than buying the disc, and unfortunately, as anyone who works in media knows, this is the future, so get used to it. physical media is not going to be around much longer and soon data rates will be high enough for streaming to make discs irrelevant.
    Reply
  • By DavidH
    February 17, 2011
    10:16 AM

    Another of my fantasies shattered: I expected, upon joining Hulu, that the comments sections here would be edifying, filled with interesting stories about film and technology and design. The truth is that there are as many egocentric whiners and ignorant, selfish people among Criterion collectors as there are in any other population. Have none of you heard of incremental steps? Do those of you outside the U.S. actually believe that your country has been singled out for exclusion--purposely? You've never heard of contract negotiations? Are you that ego-centered? And talk about demanding! If Criterion doesn't tell you immediately whether to drop Netflix, whether it will release films in your favored format, or if people don't stop watching films on their iPhones, you will stamp your little feet and take your eight bucks elsewhere. Well, good luck with that. Best wishes to Criterion on Hulu. I will keep Netflix for now, but look forward to giving this service a try before I blather on and on about what's wrong with it.
    Reply
  • 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 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 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 DawnDavenport
    January 19, 2013
    11:10 PM

    please come back to netflix, i love criterion. netflix needs you!
    Reply