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Why Are Criterions STILL Overpriced?


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#1 of 71 OFFLINE   MichaelEl

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Posted March 11 2009 - 12:51 PM

I've always thought the pricing on Criterion discs was outrageous, but it seems especially absurd now that Blu-Ray is here. I mean, is it really fair to charge $40 for an 8-year old DVD transfer of Spartacus when a BD with far superior image and sound quality is probably just around the corner? Whatever happened to the assertion that Criterion would lower the price of its DVDs once it started selling BDs?

#2 of 71 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted March 11 2009 - 02:10 PM

It's one thing to make mediocre releases like their W.C. Fields Shorts and Diabolique $29.99 MSRP (in reality about $15-20 retail), but their loaded special editions are justifiably priced higher.

The Third Man is most certainly worth the $26 price on Amazon for the BluRay, for example.

#3 of 71 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted March 11 2009 - 02:53 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEl
Whatever happened to the assertion that Criterion would lower the price of its DVDs once it started selling BDs?
I never saw that said. The only price related info that I've heard regarding Criterion is that their Blu-rays would cost the same as their DVDs.

#4 of 71 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted March 11 2009 - 03:31 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisR
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEl
Whatever happened to the assertion that Criterion would lower the price of its DVDs once it started selling BDs?
I never saw that said.
Nor have I. Sounds like wishful thinking.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEl
I mean, is it really fair to charge $40 for an 8-year old DVD transfer of Spartacus when a BD with far superior image and sound quality is probably just around the corner?
The buyer who believes that a non-necessary commodity is priced unfairly always has the last word.
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#5 of 71 OFFLINE   Radioman970

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Posted March 11 2009 - 11:46 PM

After Time Bandits I've gotta real selective about those Criterions. Worth it for Gilliam's commentary track but not much else.
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#6 of 71 OFFLINE   Bleddyn Williams

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Posted March 12 2009 - 01:41 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEl
Whatever happened to the assertion that Criterion would lower the price of its DVDs once it started selling BDs?

I don't know where on earth you got this from. As TravisR already said, Criterion said they would price their blus in line with the DVDs.

As a buyer, the choice is yours. If Criterion's prices offend you, vote with your wallet.

#7 of 71 OFFLINE   R-T-C Tim

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Posted March 12 2009 - 02:09 AM

The fact that they are still in business when so many other independent DVD firms are closing down suggests that the DVDs are priced correctly.
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#8 of 71 OFFLINE   Reggie W

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Posted March 12 2009 - 02:16 AM

I would assume that Criterion has to charge more because the titles in their catalog are meant to appeal to serious film buffs and therefore to a much smaller market. They also do a considerable amount of work to involve the filmmakers and present these films at a far higher standard than other companies ever approach. The "special features" on a Criterion disc really are special unlike the crap dumped onto discs and passed off as "special features" by many other companies.

You pay more knowing you are really getting a quality disc and not a release that will be "juiced" later with "even more bonus material" because Criterion did it right the first time through research and hard work.

I have never been disappointed with a Criterion release and never felt I "overpaid" because I always got something outstanding for my money.

If cost is the only concern there is a version of Spartacus available that runs about $9.99 at most. If you are saying you want all the quality and work that goes into a Criterion disc at a cut rate price, how is that fair to them?

#9 of 71 OFFLINE   Jack Theakston

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Posted March 12 2009 - 02:18 AM

Quote:
The fact that they are still in business when so many other independent DVD firms are closing down suggests that the DVDs are priced correctly.

...or they've got really good financiers.

Image Entertainment, a company that serves similar product, consistently loses money every year and yet consistently is purchased by someone else who pumps funds into it. They almost lost their recent buyer, Nyx Entertainment, when that group couldn't even pony up their business disruption fee (which has been extended, and is ongoing news).

Between the glut on the DVD market, the BD sales cutting into normal sales, and general lack of interest, while Criterion has a dedicated cult following, they're falling back on the times. They had their warehouse clearance sale recently, and it was interesting to see what their overhead may actually be.
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#10 of 71 OFFLINE   Albert_M

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Posted March 12 2009 - 02:27 AM

I think they can expensive, very expensive, but if they weren't there.

Many here would be pleading, why don't the studios outsource movies they don't want to bother with etc and why don't we get this film or that one with all the bonus stuff that such a classic deserves.

Most of the time we can get deals and pay well under the $40 price.

It can't be cheap to get the rights and then also put all that they do into each and every release.

I am glad that they are around and still focused on DVD too.

I don't have a Blu player and really don't plan on getting one anytime soon.
I think the industry is nuts for pushing a pricey different format out there only a few years into DVD's launch into the market.

#11 of 71 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted March 12 2009 - 03:05 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Albert_M
I think the industry is nuts for pushing a pricey different format out there only a few years into DVD's launch into the market.
DVD was launched in 1997. That may not seem long ago, but remember it is a digital technology, and they develop much faster than analog video technologies did.

I think the studios have just completely lucked out with the state of the world economy. Surely they didn't take that into account, if they did they would've held HD formats back for a few years. At least the format war is over, so they aren't competing between HD formats.

#12 of 71 OFFLINE   Joseph DeMartino

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Posted March 12 2009 - 03:20 AM

Criterion has higher expenses and a smaller market, which anyone who knows anything about any business will tell you is going to translate into higher unit prices. The studios don't have to pay a license fee for the films they release, because they already own them. Studio extras are, for a variety of reasons, less costly to produce, as a rule. And finally the mere fact that Criterion has been given permission to release a film either means that the studio doesn't see it as having enough sales potential to be worth releasing themselves or that Criterion is specifically being allowed to produce a deluxe cinephile edition that will appeal to film geeks with money to burn and not directly compete with the studio's cheaper editions.

Any way you slice it, a Criterion is going to cost more, just as they did in the laserdisc days, and for many of the same reasons.

In some ways asking why a Criterion is more expensive is a little like asking why a Shelby Mustang costs more than a standard production model out of the dealer's showroom. Posted Image

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#13 of 71 OFFLINE   Richard M S

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Posted March 12 2009 - 04:14 AM

On Amazon, the upcoming Criterion release of THE LAST METRO has the same list price of $39.95 for the DVD and the Blu-ray version.

Interestingly, the pre-order price of THE LAST METRO on Blu-ray is $28.99 while the regular DVD is currently priced at $35.99 !

#14 of 71 OFFLINE   Garysb

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Posted March 12 2009 - 04:31 AM

They are also starting to release some of their films as movie only editions under
The Essential Art House label

Included are such titles as

400 Blows, The: Essential Art House
Beauty And The Beast: Essential Art House
Black Orpheus: Essential Art House
Grand Illusion: Essential Art House
Ikiru: Essential Art House
Knife In The Water: Essential Art House
La Strada: Essential Art House
Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, The: Essential Art House
Lord Of The Flies: Essential Art House
Pygmalion: Essential Art House
Rashomon: Essential Art House
Wild Strawberries: Essential Art House

The above list for $19.99 each and can currently be found for under $14 on line.

#15 of 71 OFFLINE   MichaelEl

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Posted March 12 2009 - 04:42 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reggie W
I would assume that Criterion has to charge more because the titles in their catalog are meant to appeal to serious film buffs and therefore to a much smaller market.

Many of the nearly 500 films in the collection are all-time classics of world cinema, and are more or less required viewing for film students and for anyone with even a mild interest in film. Charging $30+ for these titles is elitist (i.e., it implies those who can't afford it probably wouldn't be interested in classic cinema anyway), and has the effect of preventing people of modest means from seeing a large body of quality films.

Quote:
They also do a considerable amount of work to involve the filmmakers and present these films at a far higher standard than other companies ever approach.

I own several dozen Criterion discs and have rented a number of others, and it's clear very few of these films recieved any real restoration work. In many cases, Criterion doesn't even use the best sources available (e.g., KWAIDAN, the SAMURAI trilogy) and the picture is often filled with the usual imperfections, cropped at the sides and/or severely pictureboxed (SPARTACUS, THE VIRGIN SPRING, respectively). Criterions of newer movies usually don't look as good as later mainstream releases (TIME BANDITS). I therefore don't buy the argument that Criterion sets a higher standard than other companies, at least with the bulk of their releases.

Quote:
The "special features" on a Criterion disc really are special unlike the crap dumped onto discs and passed off as "special features" by many other companies.

I really can do without ANY special features if it will make a DVD of a quality film more affordable. The major studios usually offer people a choice between a two-disc SE and a lower-priced single disc with the same transfer. I don't see why Criterion can't do the same.

Quote:
If cost is the only concern there is a version of Spartacus available that runs about $9.99 at most. If you are saying you want all the quality and work that goes into a Criterion disc at a cut rate price, how is that fair to them?

Anchor Bay offers a high quality, Divimax version of TIME BANDITS for $12.99, while the older, inferior Criterion version is still $35. Again, the argument that Criterion prices are due to higher quality just doesn't hold.

#16 of 71 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted March 12 2009 - 04:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEl
Again, the argument that Criterion prices are due to higher quality just doesn't hold.
If they're too expensive or not worth the price, don't buy them. Considering Criterion has had the same prices for more than a decade, it must be working for them and the quality of the work they do is worth it to others.

#17 of 71 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted March 12 2009 - 05:38 AM

I think it's obnoxious that it's usually Criterion's older releases that are used as examples. Criterion should do an across-the-board decrease, especially on all the non-anamorphic or movie-only DVDs. But I fail to see why a higher price point is unfair on the majority of their output. Even if they're a little light on extras for some films, it's justified by the rarity or quality.

Warner is one studio that consistently prices exactly proportional to the content. Most of the time they go for low prices, but go for much higher on their more obscure or specialized releases. The TCM Archives releases are expensive, but you know they're not going to sell as many copies as the Kubrick special editions.

So, $20 for Diabolique is too high, but $30 for Spartacus - even in SD - isn't a travesty. Criterion is a relatively small business and need all they can get to stay in the market.

#18 of 71 OFFLINE   zackscott5

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Posted March 12 2009 - 07:56 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEl
Many of the nearly 500 films in the collection are all-time classics of world cinema, and are more or less required viewing for film students and for anyone with even a mild interest in film. Charging $30+ for these titles is elitist (i.e., it implies those who can't afford it probably wouldn't be interested in classic cinema anyway), and has the effect of preventing people of modest means from seeing a large body of quality films.



I own several dozen Criterion discs and have rented a number of others, and it's clear very few of these films recieved any real restoration work. In many cases, Criterion doesn't even use the best sources available (e.g., KWAIDAN, the SAMURAI trilogy) and the picture is often filled with the usual imperfections, cropped at the sides and/or severely pictureboxed (SPARTACUS, THE VIRGIN SPRING, respectively). Criterions of newer movies usually don't look as good as later mainstream releases (TIME BANDITS). I therefore don't buy the argument that Criterion sets a higher standard than other companies, at least with the bulk of their releases.




Sir, I don't know if anyone else has replied to your post as of yet, but what you had just said made me want to join in.

The titles that you have mentioned above (TIme Bandits, The Samuri Trilogy,etc) are title that were in Criterions first 100 releases back in the late 90's. These titles WERE remastered and restored with the finest technology available at that time. DOes it look like the picture of CItizen Kane? No! because the technology was not there as of yet. To say that these films did not receive any restoration is pure bull honkey!

Also, the WIndow Boxed images were used given the fact that most households didn't have a widescreeen television or a televsion that produced little to no overscan. So to combat this, Criterion window boxed certain widescreen films so that you at home will be able to see the entire image.

Criterion does know this and has been re doing some titles with the current state of the art technology including High def masters, anamorphic widescreen (they did not do that until it think title 65) etc. Brazil is a great example for that. And with some prints, the picture that you see is from the best elements available.
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#19 of 71 OFFLINE   Patrick Mason

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Posted March 12 2009 - 08:40 AM

I have to agree with those stating that some of the titles being used as examples here are among Criterion's earliest releases, and that as the format has matured they are just starting to look their age. I personally consider the work they are doing important to the preservation and availability of countless classic films, and their prices are a reasonable investment to help keep that work going. They've released a few sub-par transfers here and there, almost exclusively in the earlier days of DVD, and if you're buying an older release it's always a good idea to research it before a purchase. However, Criterion's Blu-ray releases have already set a benchmark for the new format, and other than my personal dislike of picture-boxing their DVD's have adhered to a high standard for many years.

I think that in light of the very affordable Essential Art House line, as well as the decision to price their Blu-ray's at the same price point as their DVD's, it is unfair to criticize them for "elitist" pricing. Without Criterion a majority of their catalog would not be available at all, to say nothing of the quality of the releases themselves.

The licensing and restoration of their releases costs money, the production of quality bonus materials costs money, some of that cost will be passed on to you. Yes, sometimes the higher cost means that I cannot afford as many of their titles as I would like, but if those prices keep them in business, I'm happy to do my part to keep them going.

#20 of 71 OFFLINE   Mark Zimmer

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Posted March 12 2009 - 08:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reggie W

You pay more knowing you are really getting a quality disc and not a release that will be "juiced" later with "even more bonus material" because Criterion did it right the first time through research and hard work.


Beauty and the Beast? Seven Samurai?

I don't have a problem with that (the original Seven Samurai disc was sadly lacking in several areas), but the quoted section just isn't true.


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