What the Criterion Collection Can Teach Publishing

I’ve previously written about Criterion’s innovative try-before-you-buy work, and the company continues to impress. According to Film Comment, they teamed up in November 2008 with The Auteurs, a fresh-faced startup out of Palo Alto which combines social networking with online film distribution. The emphasis is on under-the-radar cinema presented in high-quality streams. You can then join rate and review (like Amazon or IMDB), and naturally discover more films. As their site puts it: “Our film library is brimming with visionary films that wouldn’t fill a single cinema in Australia for a week – not even a day… but say you searched the world (all of it), you might just find an audience of a thousand for this rare cinematic treat.” 

This is exactly the kind of globalized niche publishing people like Mike Shatzkin have been professing for a while. The first publisher/distributor to crack this market — willing to approach a kind of territy-agnoticism, too — will truly own publishing online. 

(What to start with? I recommend Antonioni’s masterpiece L’Avventura.)


Related: Film Comment’s interview with The Auteurs’ Efe Cakarel

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3 responses to “What the Criterion Collection Can Teach Publishing

  1. chapmanchapman

    Good points – what I think will work with The Auteurs, and where publishing can learn, is to take the long-tail concept global. If you build up the inventory, then you’re fine. It’ll be a small profit margin, sure, but that’s nothing new to publishers. What you’re giving people is the possibility for any of these minor works to find a potentially large new audience.

    • a few years ago Virgin Books was planning on coming out with a series of full color, behind the scenes, contextual fan books to accompany various movies, like… they were planning one on the new Godzilla. I e-mailed Ken S. at the time and said: you need to make classy companion pieces to all the Criterion flicks because those people are already buying 30 dollar DVDs. and he was v. cavalier and said that nobody watched Criterion anymore. ?. And then Virgin Books folded. So, basically, I’m with you!

  2. tmapl

    intresting concept, but from a bussiness standpoint, whats the point? If you wrote a crummy song, you could force feed it to the entire world and find 1,000 people that like it. Does it make a movie good that it can’t fill a cinima? is the world stupid, not smart enough to comprehend these “elite” films? Playing devils-advocate but people keep blaming the film industry for bad movies, for unintelligant movies. But they awnser to the shareholders, and these movies make the most money.

    Unless we want to change the world back to non-public companies, start ups like this will never make it beyond that 1,000 few to fill the teather. Maybe enough for a couple to live of off, but not an entire industry.

    Its a choice between having single rich fat-cats, or public companies that anyone can invest in. We all complain about these public companies practices, yet at the same time, we want our 401ks, our investments, our mutial funds, to make money.

    I think we all need to stop and think what we really want before blaming “the industry”

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