The platinum standard in DVD and Blu-ray publishing companies, the Criterion Collection, has now entered the world of iTunes. On November 1, without any fanfare or announcement, Criterion showed up on the iTunes movie page. The company, established in 1984 with LaserDiscs and moving right on to Blu-ray, is renowned for offering world cinema’s greatest films in very pretty, rather expensive sets. Criterion was the first company to introduce audio commentary tracks with film historians and directors on their LaserDisc releases. Well known for their exclusive special features and pristine restorations, Criterion is still the Everest in the DVD and Blu-ray world, in terms of quality, despite the niche audience. In 2008, Criterion started investing their efforts into Blu-ray and have been on numerous top ten lists for best Blu-ray releases of their year. Earlier this year, Criterion and streaming website Hulu made a polarizing deal where they left Netflix and decided to port over their entire collection (and more) to the site, albeit for their subscription service Hulu Plus. Since the deal, which was made official on February 15th, according to Moviefone, Criterion has more than 680 films as well as their incredible supplemental features.
Criterion is offering a very small selection of films from their collection (especially in comparison with Hulu’s library), but it is a start. They seem to be beginning with 46 films, including such hallmarks of cinema as Ingmar Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL, Jean-Luc Godard’s BREATHLESS, Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI, and Francois Truffaut’s THE 400 BLOWS. Each film is $14.99 to purchase and $2.99 to rent.
There are a few things surprising about this move such as: a) how few films they’re starting off with, especially in terms of better known titles; b) the lack of any announcement or fanfare, considering that Criterion is a big name well known for their distribution of classic and important art house films; and c) their lack of any special features. While 46, I suppose, is a fine number to begin with, Hulu Plus began their deal with 150 films. Many of the films weren’t part of the official collection, one of the perks of having a subscription. We’ll simply have to wait for more. There was almost no prior announcement on their website, and even the guys at CriterionCast only found out about it the day of. It’s very strange for such a beloved company. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the lack of extras. They could very well utilize iTunes Extras to get some of their comprehensive featurettes and documentaries on iTunes, but they seem to have decided against it so far. The pricing isn’t terribly surprising, as Criterion is a bit infamous for charging an arm and a leg for some films.
At the moment, no film in the meager selection intrigues me enough to buy it, even though the rental option is nice. I already own several on Blu-ray, and until they add more, I’ll be hard put to buy any. I’m hoping that, in the future, they’ll add Charlie Chaplin’s MODERN TIMES and Stanley Donen’s CHARADE. Those two I would pay for to have on my iPod.