Criterion Collection
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Criterion Collection

The Criterion Collection, Inc.
Privately held company
IndustryMotion picture video production
Founded1984; 36 years ago (1984)
HeadquartersNew York City, New York, U.S.[1]
Area served
United Kingdom (Europe)
United States, Canada (North America)
Key people
Jonathan B. Turell (CEO)[1]
Peter Becker (President)[2]
ProductsLaserDiscs (1984-99)
DVDs (1998-present)
Blu-ray Discs (2008-present)
VOD (select titles) (2008-present)
Criterion Channel (2019-present)
OwnerThe Voyager Company (1985-97)
Number of employees
ParentJanus Films
DivisionsEclipse from the Criterion Collection
Essential Art House from Janus Films

The Criterion Collection, Inc. (or simply Criterion) is an American home video distribution company which focuses on licensing "important classic and contemporary films" and selling them to film aficionados.[3] Criterion has helped to standardize characteristics of home video such as film restoration, using the letterbox format for widescreen films, and adding bonus features and commentary tracks.


The company was founded in 1984 by Robert Stein, Aleen Stein, and Joe Medjuck, who later were joined by Roger Smith. In 1985, the Steins, William Becker, and Jonathan B. Turell founded the Voyager Company,[4] to publish educational multimedia CD-ROMs (1989-2000),[4][5] during which time the Criterion Collection became a subordinate division of the Voyager Company. In March 1994, Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH bought 20% of Voyager for US$6.7 million; the four founders each retained a 20% owner's share.[4]

In 1997, the Voyager Company was dissolved (Aleen Stein founded the Organa LLC CD-ROM publishing company), and Holtzbrinck Publishers sold the "Voyager" brand name, 42 CD-ROM titles, the Voyager web site, and associated assets, to Learn Technologies Interactive, LLC (LTI).[6] Robert Stein sold 42 Voyager titles to LTI from his Voyager-Criterion company share. The remaining three partners, Aleen Stein, William Becker (President) and Jonathan Turell (CEO) owned the Criterion Collection company,[6] which has a business partnership with Janus Films, and had one with Home Vision Entertainment (HVE) until 2005, when Image Entertainment bought HVE.[7] On November 4, 2013, it was announced that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment would handle distribution.[8]

Home Vision Entertainment

In 1986, Charles Benton founded Home Vision Entertainment (HVE), the home-video division of Public Media Inc. (PMI), which he had previously founded in 1968. The HVE company sold, advertised, marketed, and distributed Criterion Collection DVDs, and also sold its own HVE brand of DVDs (co-produced with Criterion), including The Merchant Ivory Collection,[9] and the Classic Collection, a joint venture between Home Vision Entertainment and Janus Films. The latter enterprise published HVE imprint films, for which Janus Films owned the video rights, but which were unavailable from the Criterion Collection; however, Criterion published the Classic Collection films. In 2005, Image Entertainment bought HVE, thus it became the exclusive distributor of Criterion Collection products until 2013.[10]

Online ventures and marketing

The Criterion Collection began to provide video on demand (VOD) in partnership with MUBI (formerly The Auteurs) in 2008. In February 2011, Criterion began switching its VOD offerings exclusively to Hulu Plus.[11] In November 2016, FilmStruck, a film streaming service from Turner Classic Movies, succeeded Hulu as the exclusive streaming service for the Criterion Collection.[12] Some Criterion films were streamed by Kanopy. On October 26, 2018, Warner Bros. Digital Networks and Turner announced that FilmStruck would be shutting down on November 29.[13] Criterion stated in a blog post that they were "trying to find ways we can bring our library and original content back to the digital space as soon as possible."[14]

On November 16, 2018, Criterion announced that they would be launching the Criterion Channel as a standalone service, wholly owned and operated by the Criterion Collection, beginning in the United States and Canada, then hopefully elsewhere. Some of the VOD service's offerings are also available through HBO Max, WarnerMedia's streaming platform as of May 27, 2020.[15]

Criterion also maintains a YouTube channel with which it markets its films. One notable feature is the "Three Reasons" playlist it has produced in which the company overlays in a few words or phrases three reasons that the film is worth watching or has entered the Criterion catalogue.[16] In response YouTube users offer their own "Three Reasons" to promote nominations.[17][18] No "Three Reasons" video has been released by Criterion since June 30, 2015.[19]

British film magazine Sight & Sound revealed in their April 2016 issue that Criterion would be expanding its releases to the United Kingdom.[20][21] The first six titles were released on April 18, 2016.

Contributions and influence

The Criterion Collection video company pioneered the correct aspect ratio letterboxing presentation of movies, as well as commentary soundtracks, multi-disc sets, special editions, and definitive versions. These ideas and the special features introduced by the Criterion Collection have been highly influential, and have become industry-wide standards for premium home video releases.


With its eighth LaserDisc release, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Criterion introduced the letterbox format, which added black bars to the top and bottom of the 4:3 standard television set in order to preserve the original aspect ratio of the film.[22] Thereafter, Criterion made letterboxing the standard presentation for all its releases of films shot in widescreen aspect ratios.[23]

Commentary soundtracks

The Criterion Collection's second catalog title, King Kong (1933), was the debut of the scene-specific audio commentary[24] contained in a separate analog channel of the LaserDisc.[25] It featured US film historian Ronald Haver reporting about the production, cast, screenplay, production design and special effects.[26] He is also the commentator for the LaserDisc editions of Casablanca (1942), Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Singin' in the Rain (1952), and The Wizard of Oz (1939). Typically, the chapter-indexed commentaries are exclusive to the Criterion releases and their initial DVD reissues; they became collector's items when the original-owner studios re-issued titles previously licensed to Criterion (with newly produced commentary tracks or not).

Special editions

The Criterion Collection began in 1984 with the releases of Citizen Kane (1941) and King Kong (1933) on LaserDisc, the latter's source negatives courtesy of the Library of Congress.[27] The company later became known for pioneering the "special edition" DVD concept, containing bonus materials (trailers, commentaries, documentaries, alternate endings, deleted scenes, et cetera), "a film school in a box", as it were,[28] the success of which established the special edition version in the DVD business. In 2006, taking advantage of better film-transfer and film-restoration technologies, Criterion published improved-image versions, with bonus materials, of early catalog titles such as Amarcord (1973), Brazil (1985), and Seven Samurai (1954).

Film restoration

Originally, the Criterion company released art, genre, and mainstream movies on LaserDisc such as Halloween (1978), Ghostbusters (1984), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), Armageddon (1998), and The Rock (1996). Increasingly, the Criterion Collection has also focused on releasing world cinema, mainstream cinema classics, and critically successful obscure movies. Using the best available source materials, the company produced technologically improved and cleaner versions. For example, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), M (1931), Children of Paradise (1945), The Third Man (1949), Seven Samurai (1954), and Amarcord (1973) discs contain film-cleaning and film-restoration demonstrations, comparing the restored and un-restored images.


Some previously licensed Criterion Collection titles, such as The Harder They Come (1972), are now commercially unavailable as new product, and are only available in resale (used) form. Titles such as RoboCop (1987), Hard Boiled (1992), The Killer (1989), and Ran (1985), became unavailable when their publishing licenses expired, or when Criterion published improved versions, such as Beauty and the Beast (1946), M (1931), The Wages of Fear (1953), and Seven Samurai (1954). As of September 2018, 188 of the 954 titles (19%) from the list of Criterion Collection LaserDisc releases have been re-released.

Another example is the film Charade (1963), which had become a public-domain property for lacking the legally required copyright notice. The Criterion company produced a restored edition under license from Universal Pictures for the initial edition, and for the later anamorphic widescreen re-release edition of the film.[29][30]

Periodically, Criterion does release material on DVD/Blu-ray licensed from the studios they previously dealt with (e.g., Universal and Terry Gilliam's 1985 film Brazil); these new releases are generally done on a case-by-case basis.[31]


LaserDisc and DVD

The original "Criterion" logo

The Criterion Collection began publishing LaserDiscs on December 1, 1984 with its release of Citizen Kane. In 1998, Criterion began publishing DVDs as well. On March 16, 1999, Criterion issued its final LaserDisc release, Michael Bay's Armageddon.[32] As with its laserdiscs, Criterion's early DVD editions of widescreen films were presented in the letterbox format, but Criterion did not enhance its discs for 16:9 monitors until mid-1999 with its release of Insomnia (1997), catalog number 47.[33]

Criterion was slow to expand into high-definition releases, partly due to the HD format wars between Blu-ray and HD DVD.[34] Once Blu-ray had emerged as the industry-standard high-definition home video format, Criterion expanded into releasing Blu-ray editions of select films from its collection, beginning with the Blu-ray release of Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express (#453; currently out of print) on December 16, 2008.[35][36] In late 2013, Criterion announced that with the November release of the Zatoichi boxset (spine #679), all their releases would be in dual format (DVD and Blu-ray packaged together) rather than individual releases.[37] This decision also applied to most upgrade re-releases introduced after November 2013. After customer feedback revealed some reluctance to this approach, All That Jazz (#724) became the last chronological spine number released as a dual format edition, and the decision was reversed back to separate releases for titles released in and after September 2014.[38]

Despite the emergence of Blu-ray as the industry-standard high-definition format, Janus/Criterion remain committed to supporting the DVD format. Not only are all their new Blu-ray releases accompanied by a standard-definition DVD version, but revised and upgraded releases are also released on both formats (barring the brief foray into dual-format releases). Moreover, the company's stand-alone line of Eclipse releases are currently only made available in the standard DVD format.

Aside from the core catalog, the company has also released films through its Essential Art House, Eclipse, and Merchant Ivory Collection lines, as well as a few releases outside of any product line. Many of these releases have also been collected and sold in various box sets.

In April 2016 for the first time in its history, Criterion announced it would begin releasing their catalogue outside of the U.S. (earlier international Criterion titles like the Japanese LaserDisc of Blade Runner were licensed to other companies). In partnership with Sony Entertainment, releases began to be distributed with the launch of six titles in the UK during the month.[39]

Video on demand services

The company has also expanded into online distribution, through online video on demand rental services, first in partnership with MUBI (formerly known as The Auteurs), then Hulu. Criterion's Hulu Plus subscription channel also offered titles for streaming as-yet unreleased on DVD/Blu-ray, including dozens of the Janus-owned films produced by London Films. In November, 2016, Criterion ended its deal with Hulu, and partnered with Turner Classic Movies to launch a dedicated streaming service called FilmStruck.[40][41] After two years, TCM parent company WarnerMedia restructured its streaming offerings, and it was announced that the future online home for Criterion's films would be a dedicated channel. The Criterion Channel launched on April 8, 2019 and offers subscribers access to both 'complete' releases from the collection, specially-produced supplementary programming and other films controlled by Janus/Voyager, alongside limited engagements of select films from other companies, particularly Warner/TCM.[42] On November 25, 2008, on its website, Criterion began offering video on demand (VOD) downloading services, for US$5.00 per select movie, marking the beginning of a cross-promotional video on demand (VOD) service from the Criterion and The Auteurs websites.[43] In early 2011, many Criterion titles also became available through the Hulu Plus premium subscription service.[44] In November 2016, FilmStruck, a film streaming service from Turner Classic Movies, succeeded Hulu as the exclusive streaming service for the Criterion Collection;[12] FilmStruck was discontinued on November 29, 2018.[45] Since then, Criterion has launched the Criterion Channel, making a curated selection of its library available to Canadian and U.S. subscribers. Criterion Collection content is also accessible via the library VOD service Kanopy.


A Criterion Collection logotype: Blu-ray Criterion label, dates from the first movies released on December 16, 2008.

Criterion began publishing on Blu-ray Disc in December 2008.[46] Unlike its DVD releases, which are a mixture of NTSC-standard Region 0 (region-free) and Region 1 DVDs, Criterion Collection Blu-ray Discs are Region A locked in North America or Region B locked in the United Kingdom (with the exception of Roma, which is region-free in both territories[47]).


Eclipse is a line started in 2007 separate from the Criterion Collection. It is described by Criterion as "a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions".[48]

Product pricing

The retail list prices for Criterion Collection releases typically range from US$30 to US$40 for one-disc and two-discs sets, respectively, while boxed sets typically range from US$80 to US$200. Twice-yearly sales at 50% off full price are held both at the Criterion website and at the Barnes & Noble website and stores.

Janus Films' "Essential Art House" collection consists of Janus-owned Criterion films without many special features, as lower-cost alternatives to individual purchases of regular Criterion titles.

Demand for out-of-print re-releases has spawned the business of counterfeit (bootleg) copies, often advertised as a Criterion Collection "Asian" edition to disguise their bootleg nature.[33] The company's website instructs buyers to shop carefully, advises about identifying bootleg merchandise, and notes that the Criterion Collection has never published Asian editions of its film catalog.


  1. ^ a b c "The Criterion Collection Inc". Hoover's.
  2. ^ Bachman, Justin (April 16, 2014). "How Hulu Found a Subscriber Lure in Obscure Films". Bloomberg Business. Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ "Criterion Mission Statement". Retrieved 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Virshup, Amy (July 1996). "The Teachings of Bob Stein". Wired. Retrieved 2007.
  5. ^ Brockman, John. "Bob Stein: The Radical". Digerati. Edge Foundation. Retrieved 2007.
  6. ^ a b "Aleen Stein". Organa Online. Archived from the original on August 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  7. ^ "History". About Home Vision. Home Vision Entertainment. Archived from the original on June 27, 2002. Retrieved 2007.
  8. ^ "Sony Inks Distribution, Admin Deal With Criterion". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  9. ^ Hasan, Mark Richard (September 2004). "DVD Review". Music From the Movies. Archived from the original on June 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  10. ^ "Image Entertainment Acquires Home Vision Entertainment and Enters into Exclusive Multi-Year Home Video Distribution Agreement with The Criterion Collection". August 2, 2005. Retrieved 2019.
  11. ^ Lawler, Ryan (February 15, 2011). "As Netflix Goes After TV Fans, Hulu Chases Movie Buffs". The New York Times. New York: The New York Times Company. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Retrieved 2011. Hulu is looking to court movie buffs to its subscription Plus offering, announcing Tuesday that it has acquired streaming rights for hundreds of classic films from The Criterion Collection. [...] Hulu Plus will soon be the only place old movie buffs will be able to catch Criterion titles.
  12. ^ a b Kleeman, Sophie. "21 Classic Movies Getting Yanked From Hulu Soon". Gizmodo.
  13. ^ Spangler, Todd (October 26, 2018). "WarnerMedia to Shut Down FilmStruck Subscription-Streaming Service". Variety. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ "News About FilmStruck". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ "New, Independent Criterion Channel to Launch Spring 2019". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2018.
  16. ^ Three Reasons. YouTube.
  17. ^ Three Reasons: Punishment Park
  18. ^ Three Reasons: The Devils
  19. ^ "criterioncollection Videos". YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved 2016.
  20. ^ Webmaster (March 4, 2016). "Criterion to Begin Releasing on Blu-ray in the UK". Retrieved 2016.
  21. ^ Gallagher, Ryan (March 4, 2016). "The Criterion Collection is expanding to the UK on April 18". CriterionCast. CriterionCast LLC. Retrieved 2016.
  22. ^ The Criterion Collection. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Archived from the original on September 5, 2004. Retrieved 2011.
  23. ^ The Criterion Collection. "FAQ". Retrieved 2011.
  24. ^ From the Archives: The KING KONG commentary on Vimeo
  25. ^ "The First Audio Commentary". Media Party. Retrieved 2017.
  26. ^ Barlow, Aaron (2005). The DVD Revolution: Movies, Culture, and Technology. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780275983871.
  27. ^ Entertainment Tonight: Criterion LaserDiscs - 1985. January 11, 2009 – via YouTube.
  28. ^ Ulaby, Neda (June 2004). "Criterion DVD Collection". NPR. Retrieved 2007.
  29. ^ To Martin Scorsese, the Criterion Collection and Anyone Else Who'll Listen: More Public Domain Classics Worth Saving|HuffPos
  30. ^ Charade (Universal 100th Anniversary): DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video
  31. ^ 25 Essential DVD/Blu-ray Releases from The Criterion Collection « Taste of Cinema
  32. ^ "Criterion Collection Laserdiscs". Archived from the original on January 19, 2012. Retrieved 2011.
  33. ^ a b "FAQS". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2007.
  34. ^ Griffin, Al (September 2008). "Criterion Remastered". Sound & Vision. Archived from the original on January 12, 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  35. ^ Atanasov, Svet (November 22, 2008). "Chungking Express Blu-ray". Retrieved 2015.
  36. ^ "Chungking Express (1994)". The Criterion Collection. The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2016.
  37. ^ Why Dual-Format?|The Current|The Criterion Collection
  38. ^ Re:Format|The Current|The Criterion Collection
  39. ^ "New UK Releases for April 2016". Retrieved 2016.
  40. ^ "The Auteurs - Partners". The Auteurs. Retrieved 2010.
  41. ^ Castillo, Monica (June 30, 2017). "What Is FilmStruck, and Should I Subscribe?". New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  42. ^ At Criterion Channel, programming a movable movie feast - ABC News
  43. ^ "Films - Online". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2012.
  44. ^ "The Criterion Collection". Hulu. Retrieved 2012.
  45. ^ Spangler, Todd (October 26, 2018). "WarnerMedia to Shut Down FilmStruck Subscription-Streaming Service". Variety. Retrieved 2018.
  46. ^ "Films - Blu-ray - The Criterion Collection". April 14, 1912. Retrieved 2012.
  47. ^ "Roma Blu-ray". Retrieved 2020.
  48. ^ "Criterion help". Retrieved 2012.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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