Wonderful as they are, Criterion Collection DVDs and Blu-rays ain’t cheap. A single film can set you back thirty or forty bones. But now for eight bucks a month, you can have access to 150 Criterion titles via Hulu Plus, with more to be added each month. Here are some of the details from Hulu SVP Eugene Wei’s blog post about the announcement:
“Criterion has digital streaming rights to over 800 of the films in their library…We’re launching with over 150 Criterion movies today, and we’ll be adding more titles each month. Among the launch list today are so many acknowledged classics: ‘The 400 Blows,’ ‘L’Avventura,’ ‘The Battle of Algiers,’ ‘Breathless,’ ‘La Jetée,’ ‘Jules and Jim,’ ‘M,’ ‘Pickpocket,’ ‘Playtime,’ ‘Rashomon,’ ‘Seven Samurai,’ ‘La Strada,’ and ‘The Wages of Fear.’
“Just as exciting are the titles still to come. These include not just more well-known classics but also movies that have been difficult or impossible to find on video in any format. ‘Le Silence de la Mer,’ by one of my favorite directors, Jean-Pierre Melville. The extended filmography of Kenji Mizoguchi. Early shorts by Chaplin. ‘L’Assassin Habite au 21,’ Henri-Georges Clouzot’s first feature. This doesn’t even include the supplemental content Criterion is famous for and which we’ll bring to the Criterion experience on Hulu Plus over time: commentaries, documentaries, interviews, original trailers, essays, and more. Many of these will be digitized for the first time.”
Beyond the titles Wei mentioned, the first batch of Criterions on Hulu Plus also includes some films that aren’t currently available on Criterion DVD or Blu-ray, including Edward Dmytryk’s “Obsession,” Peter Weir’s “The Car That Ate Paris,” and Michael Powell’s “The Spy in Black.” Wei mentions Criterion has the streaming rights to 800 films, a figure several hundred films higher than their disc library. Intriguing.
Of course, you can already watch many Criterion titles on demand at Mubi.com and I often use my subscription to Netflix Watch Instantly to watch Criterion titles (a couple of the ones I have currently sitting in my queue, like “Jeanne Dielman,” aren’t available on Hulu Plus, either). But if the streaming quality is up to Criterion’s standards — and given Criterion’s insane levels of quality control, they have to be — this is an exciting development, particularly when Hulu starts adding Criterion’s terrific supplemental materials as well — something you can’t get through other online VOD services. I don’t know that I’m going to rush out and sign up for Hulu Plus yet. For an old-fashioned guy like myself, there’s still something pleasurable about owning a Criterion disc. But this is definitely on my radar.