The Criterion Collection holds a kind of mystical allure for film geeks. Emerging out of the primordial mist of the Laserdisc era, Criterion quickly set the standard for overstuffed, gorgeously produced DVDs. Criterion had access to some of the greatest films ever – Ozu and Godard and Fellini, oh my! – and they had an unmatched capability for picking fantastic special features. (My personal favorite extra ever: The disc for The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie includes a short video in which Luis Bunuel teaches you how to mix a perfect martini.) So it’s hard to know what to make of the news that the Criterion Collection will be partnering with Hulu Plus, Hulu’s subscription service. According to a letter from Hulu’s senior vice president Eugene Wei, 150 Criterion titles are already available on Hulu (including The Seventh Seal, Black Orpheus, and Shoot the Piano Player), with more on their way. The news is definitely exciting, but does it devalue the Criterion brand to go full-digital like this? And, more to the point, will this actually convince people to subscribe to Hulu Plus?
In some ways, Criterion was the DVD era. The notion of Criterion moving online en masse feels like a watershed moment. (Online video quality isn’t up to HD standard yet, but it’s surely getting there.) Even if you’re skeptical, though, you have to give Hulu some credit – they know that advertisements are a huge turn-off for people. (Speaking as a Hulu Plus subscriber, it feels quite bizarre to pay for commercials.) Wei makes it clear that Criterion movies will run without commercial breaks. There will be ads up front, which will hopefully last just long enough for you to make yourself some popcorn. And the Criterion supplements will come to Hulu Plus eventually, too.
What do you think, PopWatchers? Are you coming around to Hulu Plus? Vote in the poll below, and talk about it in the comments. Also, has anyone actually made the Bunuel martini?