Brand Talk: The Criterion Collection

Posted by Sam

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.

Founded: 1984
Founders: Robert Stein, Aleen Stein, and Joe Medjuck (company info is rather circuitous)
Identity: Pentagram (Inspiration is here).

10 Comments Leave A Comment


Mike says:

February 4, 2011 at 11:39 am

i got down with criterion after i discovered the ‘by brakhage’ anthology. their shit is on point.


Scott says:

February 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I didn’t know Criterion was a thing until I purchased Benjamin Button a few years ago…then I see “Criterion Collection” on the side and wondered what was up with that. After seeing the amazing quality of the DVD (visuals, features, etc.), I looked them up. Hooked instantly.

I discovered Wong Kar Wai through them, as well as getting my hands on Ozu’s The Only Son/There Was A Father. Some great stuff there.


Nilas Andersen says:

February 6, 2011 at 12:11 pm

CC is great in many ways. But most of “their” films can be bought way cheaper from a different distributor. I’d only buy dvds from them if I can’t find them elsewhere, cheaper.

That said, I use their website alot to find interesting films.


brian says:

February 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Nice writeup. The internet’s ability to knit together niche markets and create revenue opportunities from rarity and exclusion is inspiring and one of the more vital developments it’s brought us. Lots of little economies being created and crafts/hobbies being revived/nurtured as a result…


Henri says:

February 8, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Doux. Tres doux, mais… Ne faudrait-il pas concilier les critiques “formelles” avec les critiques de fond : parler de la jaquette d’un film sans oublier le synopsis, d’un photographe sans oublier le sujet et sa propre nationalité, son pays, ou quoi que ce soit qui fasse du topic un confiture, certes, mais une confiture ou on se regarde le matin et on se dit, putain! , mec c’est ta grand mère qui a cueillis les groseilles ou quoi ?


TYNAN says:

February 14, 2011 at 5:29 am

Excellent writeup, I have to admit that I was unaware of the Criterion Collection being the established niche that it is. Thanks for opening my eyes to this, and another sarcastic ‘thanks’ for showing me another bookshelf must-have, my wallet is suffering enough as it is…


Justin says:

April 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm

I have a few Criterion releases and they’re amazing. The packaging of these films is gorgeous and well thought out. Now I feel inspired to go and enlarge my collection. Great post!


Justin says:

April 10, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I have a few Criterion releases and they’re amazing. The packaging of these films is gorgeous and well thought out. Now I feel inspired to go and enlarge my collection. Great post!