Continuing with the wildly infrequent discussion of brands.
In an era where physicality in media is increasingly discussed, The Criterion Collection, a “publisher of premium editions of classic and contemporary films”, has established a strong customer loyalty through a combination of quality consistency and innovation (early adoption of Laserdisc, DVD and online streaming). Criterion has become one of the most recognized names in a field that isn’t commonly considered to carry prestige brands.
I retroactively discovered Criterion after purchasing one of my favorite films Rushmore, many years ago. The design of the original poster art always left me cold, as it attempt to market the film as a teen rebellion flick, sort of a suburban CHE. The sly illustration of the solitary protagonist WAS the movie to me, which made me put down the extra dollars for this film I knew I’d always own. It was only afterwards that I realized “The Criterion Collection” banner on the side was a mark of a unique brand of curated special editions.
The secret to their success seems multifaceted.
Curation: Criterion has been responsible both for releasing films that have been overlooked, under-distributed and even just unheralded amidst box office success, finding new life given the Criterion treatment. Can Chasing Amy and The Criterion versions often sit alongside the original or Blu-Ray versions, at a higher price, but given the quality of extras, these editions are deemed to be better thought out than their peers.
Scarcity: There is a time frame in which most Criterion releases exist, possibly due to short print runs for lesser known titles or presumably the duration of the license for the film they acquired. The limited nature of these DVDs creates a collector aftermarket eager not to miss out, much like the contemporary vinyl market.
And of course, Design: The quality and uniqueness of their packaging puts them in league with some of the best companies in media today. The design is never of one style, but always of a character that is distinctly theirs. It is a commonly held fact that the best brands are the ones that are able to be parodied. The presence of a ‘Fake Criterions” blog laughs at the prospect of weaker films getting this special treatment (Im a fan of the Air Bud one in particular, very Hoop Dreams).
It could be stated that a Criterion Collection library, sitting alongside a well appointed vinyl and book shelf, will not be something to sneeze at in the Netflix era.