2024-06-16 23:58:22
Interview with the masters of the Criterion Collection Uncategorized

Salon (2000)

What has been the response to your up-market pricing? [Most Criterion releases retail at $29.95 and $39.95.]

It’s been our pleasure to be able to be substantially closer to the market price than we were on laser. Our stuff on laser was about on a 100 percent premium compared to other discs; we were priced between $50 and $150. That was partly a factor in the difference in cost between lasers and actual DVDs. Now we’re only about 10 bucks above market — as far as street pricing goes, that may mean paying $23.95 instead of $18.95 — and that’s about as close as we’ll ever be able to be.

But in the end we’re putting so much work, research, actual money into making new film elements where necessary, doing digital restoration work, acquiring supplementary material, that we really have no choice but to share the cost with the people who are building their home collections. One of the challenges is to get people to come to the collection for the first time, because once they come they tend to come back. Over time they find that some percentage of their shelf is Criterion discs and that they like the way that shelf looks.

It’s expensive to offer real value. We don’t want to find ourselves in a position where we’re cutting corners because there’s no margin to support the work that we do. Part of the love of it is being able to do it right. On the one hand, if we were a huge deep-pocketed studio we might be able to write off any losses for particular releases on a line that would vanish in a corporate report.

In reality we’re a small private company and we’ve got to float on our own. But in a large corporate environment it would be more likely for someone to ask “Couldn’t you have done this without spending $15,000 on this new element?” The answer would be, yes we could have but the disc wouldn’t have been as good. And it’s important to uphold people’s expectations.

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