A Letter from Hulu

Feb 15, 2011

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!

A Letter from Hulu