It used to be that in order to watch the Criterion Collection’s lovingly put-together film releases, you had to save up the 40 bones required to buy one at the store, or patiently explain to a confused relative why it’s important to get that particular version of a film, not the cheaper one without the big black bars on the top and bottom. These days, however, you can watch Criterion’s selection of restored films online via Hulu, and now on iTunes as well.
Though Criterion Collection films first started showing up on iTunes this month with little-to-no fanfare, the eagle-eyed folks at Slashfilm were quick to pick up on the exciting news. Users can rent a film for $2.99, which while not Red Box cheap is still pretty reasonable considering the higher average quality of Criterion releases. Or, you can purchase a digital version of a flick for only $14.99, which is way beneath the average price for physical versions. There are a few caveats, however…
First up is the fact that as of the writing of this article, there are only fifty Criterion Collection films available to buy or rent. That should be more than enough to keep you and your cinephile friends busy over the next couple months, but it’s nowhere near a full sampling of the company’s expansive line.
Perhaps more troubling to fans of the Criterion Collection, however, is the lack of special features on these digital versions. Yes, the beautiful restorations of classic films is a huge reason people shell out for Criterion Collection releases, and it should be pretty obvious that by purchasing a digital version you’re giving up on what is typically pretty impressive packaging and design-work. But we’re guessing that for a lot of film-lovers, a Criterion Collection release sans commentary, behind-the-scenes looks and other special features, isn’t much of a Criterion Collection release at all.
What do you think? Are you still interested in Criterion Collection releases when they don’t come with all of the special features goodies to which you’re accustomed? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.