The Criterion Collection is a video distribution company which specializes in licensing and selling "important classic and contemporary films" in "editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements." Janus Films and the Voyager Company established The Criterion Collection in 1984 as a privately held company concentrating exclusively upon the North American home video market. Between 1984 and 1998, Criterion published home video releases in LaserDisc format, pioneering now-standard home video features such as letterboxing, audio commentary tracks, and other supplemental content. In 1998, Criterion shifted from Laserdiscs into the then-fledgling DVD market. All of Criterion's Laserdisc releases have since gone out of print.Criterion was slow to expand into high-definition releases, partly due to the HD format wars between Blu-ray and HD DVD. Once Blu-ray had emerged as the industry-standard high-definition home video format, Criterion expanded into releasing Blu-ray editions of select films from its collection, beginning with the Blu-ray release of Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express (#453; currently out of print) on December 16, 2008. The company has also expanded into online distribution, through online video on demand rental services, first in partnership with MUBI (formerly known as The Auteurs), then Hulu, before launching its own streaming service with Turner Classic Movies called FilmStruck. Criterion offers unreleased titles (on DVD/Blu-ray) on their Hulu Plus subscription channel. In late 2013, Criterion announced that with the November release of the Zatoichi boxset (spine #679), all their releases would be in dual format (DVD and Blu-ray packaged together) rather than individual releases. This decision also applied to most upgrade re-releases introduced after November 2013. After customer feedback revealed some reluctance to this approach, All That Jazz (#724) became the last chronological spine number released as a dual format edition, and the decision was reversed back to separate releases for titles released in and after September 2014.Despite the emergence of Blu-ray as the industry-standard high-definition format, Janus/Criterion remain committed to supporting the DVD format. Not only are all their new Blu-ray releases accompanied by a standard-definition DVD version, but revised and upgraded releases are also released on both formats (barring the brief foray into dual-format releases). Moreover, the company's stand-alone line of Eclipse releases are currently only made available in the standard DVD format.
Aside from the core Criterion Collection catalog, the company has also released films through its Essential Art House, Eclipse, and Merchant Ivory Collection lines, as well as a few releases outside of any product line. Many of these releases have also been collected and sold in various box sets.
In April 2016 for the first time in its history, Criterion announced it would begin releasing their catalogue outside of the US (earlier international Criterion titles like the Japanese Laserdisc of Blade Runner were licensed to other companies). In partnership with Sony Entertainment, releases began to be distributed with the launch of six titles in the UK during the month.
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