Criterion To Lower Retail Prices On Several Titles This November

[UPDATE 11/2/2010: Apparently the price change hasn’t gone into effect yet, I’m now being told the prices will drop on the 9th. I’ll be sure to keep everyone up to date as to when this really happens.]

One of the most frequent complaints as to why people can’t “get into” collecting Criterion DVDs and Blu-rays is the price. There’s no need to dance around that fact. Criterion fanboys will undoubtedly bring up features like “supplements” or “production quality” to combat the penny pinchers in their counter arguments. For myself, I just fall back on the old adage, that you get what you pay for, when I cry myself to sleep at night, thinking of the amount of debt I’ve put myself in, thanks to these wondrous discs.

Well next month, things are going to get a little easier for us defenders of the Criterion brand.

On November 2nd, the Criterion Collection will be lowering the manufacturers retail price on seven DVDs from the catalog, to $24.95. Some of the discs currently retail as high as $39.95, so it’s a considerable drop in price, historically speaking. Clearly the current economic climate is not very conducive to spending your cash on DVDs, and I’d imagine that was a big factor in this decision. I’m listing all of the titles that will be dropping in price blow, and there are some real deals to be had. We recently recorded our episode with Whitney Matheson of USA Today’s PopCandy blog, discussing Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, which will be among the newly discounted titles.

Criterion has already begun pricing their new and upcoming DVD releases at $29.95, versus their Blu-ray doppelgangers at $39.95.

So if your one of the lucky folks who will be voting this November 2nd (you all should be, by the way), you can take some solace in the fact that after you leave the voting booth, you can head out to your local Best Buy or Barnes and Noble, and demand your lower priced Criterion titles. Speaking of Barnes and Noble, there has been murmurings around the various forums (Mubi and CriterionForum.org), talking about the inevitable 50% off sale this fall. While I don’t have any insider information regarding the start date of said sale, I’d say it’s a safe bet that around when Black Friday hits the nation, you’ll be able to get some Criterion discs for half off the retail price. Hopefully Amazon will be aggressively competing with Barnes and Noble this time around, because I got some really cheap Blu-rays online last year.

One last thing: I think it’s also safe to assume that Criterion will be closely monitoring the sales of these titles, once the prices drop. So if you want more titles to head down to $24.95, make sure you pick these up, or buy them as holiday gifts for your friends and family. Who wouldn’t want to find For All Mankind under the tree this year?

I’m linking the covers below to their counterparts at Amazon. The lowered prices shouldn’t take effect until November 2nd, but remember to use our links if you decide to purchase, it helps us out at the Criterion Cast!


GIMME SHELTER

Called ‘the greatest rock film ever made,’ this landmark documentary follows the Rolling Stones on their notorious 1969 U.S. tour. When three-hundred-thousand members of the Love Generation collided with a few dozen Hell’s Angels at San Francisco’s Altamont Speedway, Direct Cinema pioneers David and Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin were there to immortalize on film the bloody clash that transformed a decade’s dreams into disillusionment.

  • New high-definition digital transfer of the uncensored thirtieth-anniversary version (with exclusive Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround sound mixes, and DTS-HD Master Audio surround and stereo mixes on the Blu-ray)
  • Audio commentary featuring directors Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin and collaborator Stanley Goldstein
  • Performances by the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden in 1969, including ‘Oh Carol’ and ‘Prodigal Son,” plus backstage outtakes and footage of the band mixing ‘Little Queenie”
  • Audio excerpts from KSAN Radio’s Altamont wrap-up, recorded December 7, 1969, with introductions by then DJ Stefan Ponek
  • Altamont stills gallery, featuring the work of renowned photographers Bill Owens and Beth Sunflower
  • Original and rerelease theatrical trailers
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film critic Amy Taubin, music writer Stanley Booth, Jagger’s former assistant Georgia Bergman, music writer Michael Lydon, ex-Oakland Hell’s Angels chapter head Sonny Barger, and film critic Godfrey Cheshire (NOTE: Barger’s piece does not appear on the Blu-ray edition)

HOOP DREAMS

Two ordinary inner-city kids dare to dream the impossible ‘“ professional basketball glory ‘“ in this epic chronicle of hope and faith. Filmed over a five-year period, Hoop Dreams follows young Arthur Agee and William Gates as they navigate the complex, competitive world of scholastic athletics while striving to overcome the intense pressures of family life and the realities of their Chicago streets. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this landmark documentary chronicling two remarkable families who challenge the American dream.

  • Two audio commentaries with stars Arthur Agee and William Gates and filmmakers Peter Gilbert, Steve James, and Frederick Marx
  • Segments from Siskel and Ebert tracking the acclaim for Hoop Dreams
  • Original music video
  • Theatrical trailers
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a dedication to the Gates and Agee families written by the filmmakers; new essays by writer and cultural historian John Edgar Wideman, and Sports Illustrated senior writer Alexander Wolff; and Michael Wise’s Washington Post article ‘Looking Back at Broken Dreams’

GREY GARDENS

Meet Big and Little Edie Beale ‘“ high-society dropouts, mother and daughter, reclusive cousins of Jackie O. ‘“ thriving together amid the decay and disorder of their ramshackle East Hampton mansion. An impossibly intimate portrait and an eerie echo of the Kennedy Camelot, Albert and David Maysles’s 1976 Grey Gardens quickly became a cult classic and established Little Edie as a fashion icon and philosopher queen. Grey Gardens has spawned everything from a midnight-movie cult following to a Broadway musical, to an award-winning Hollywood adaptation.

  • New digital transfer
  • Audio commentary by filmmakers Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer, and Susan Froemke
  • Excerpts from a recorded interview with Little Edie Beale by Kathryn G. Graham for Interview magazine (1976)
  • Video interviews with fashion designers Todd Oldham and John Bartlett on the influence of Grey Gardens
  • Behind-the-scenes photographs
  • Trailers
  • Filmographies
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired

DOWN BY LAW

When fate lands three hapless men ‘“ an unemployed disc jockey (Tom Waits), a small-time pimp (John Lurie), and a strong-willed Italian tourist (Roberto Benigni) ‘“ in a Louisiana prison, their singular adventure begins. Described by director Jim Jarmusch as a ‘neo-beat-noir-comedy,’ Down by Law is part nightmare and part fairytale, featuring fine performances and crisp black-and-white photography by esteemed cinematographer Robby Muller.

  • New high-definition digital transfer, enhanced for widescreen televisions
  • Thoughts & reflections by Jim Jarmusch
  • 2002 video interview with director of photography Robby Müller
  • 1986 Cannes Film Festival press conference with Jarmusch and stars John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, and Nicoletta Braschi
  • 1986 John Lurie interview with commentary
  • Outtakes
  • Music video of Tom Waits singing Cole Porter’s ‘It’s All Right with Me,’ directed by Jarmusch
  • Q&A with Jarmusch
  • Jarmusch’s phone calls with Waits, Benigni, and Lurie
  • Isolated music track
  • Production Polaroids
  • Location stills
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Optional French dub track, featuring Roberto Benigni
  • Optional French subtitles
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired

SHORT CUTS

The visions of two great American artists merge in Short Cuts, maverick director Robert Altman’s kaleidoscopic adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short stories. Epic in scale yet meticulously observed, the film interweaves the lives of twenty-two characters struggling to find solace and meaning in contemporary Los Angeles. The extraordinary ensemble cast includes Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Lemmon and Jennifer Jason Leigh ‘“ all giving fearless performances in one of Altman’s most compassionate creations.

  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by editor Geraldine Peroni and approved by director Robert Altman
  • Isolated music track
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • Video conversation between Robert Altman and Tim Robbins
  • Luck, Trust and Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country, a feature-length documentary on the making of Short Cuts
  • To Write and Keep Kind, a PBS documentary on the life of Raymond Carver
  • A segment from BBC Television’s Moving Pictures tracing the development of the screenplay
  • One-hour 1983 audio interview with Carver, conducted for the American Audio Prose Library
  • Original demo recordings of the Doc Pomus’“Mac Rebennack songs, performed by Dr. John
  • Deleted scenes
  • A look inside the marketing of Short Cuts
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Michael Wilmington

FOR ALL MANKIND

In July 1969, the space race ended when Apollo 11 fulfilled President Kennedy’s challenge of ‘landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.’ No one who witnessed the lunar landing will ever forget it. Al Reinert’s documentary For All Mankind is the story of the twenty-four men who traveled to the Moon, told in their words, in their voices, using the images of their experiences. Forty years later, it remains the most radical, visually dazzling work of cinema yet made about this earth-shaking event.

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by producer-director Al Reinert (with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Audio commentary featuring Reinert and Apollo 17 commander Eugene A. Cernan, the last man to set foot on the moon
  • An Accidental Gift: The Making of ‘For All Mankind,’ a new documentary featuring interviews with Reinert, Apollo 12 and Skylab astronaut Alan Bean, and NASA archive specialists
  • On Camera, a collection of excerpted on-screen interviews with fifteen of the Apollo astronauts
  • New video program about Bean’s artwork, accompanied by a gallery of his paintings
  • NASA audio highlights and liftoff footage
  • Optional on-screen identification of astronauts and mission control specialists
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film critic Terrence Rafferty and Reinert

FISHING WITH JOHN

John Lurie knows absolutely nothing about fishing, but that doesn’t stop him from undertaking the adventure of a lifetime on Fishing with John. Traveling with his special guests to the most exotic and dangerous places on earth, John Lurie battles sharks with Jim Jarmusch off the tip of Long Island, goes ice fishing with Willem Dafoe at Maine’s northernmost point, braves the Costa Rican jungle with Matt Dillon, takes Tom Waits to Jamaica and searches for the elusive giant squid with Dennis Hopper in Thailand. Contains all 6 episodes as seen on the Independent Film Channel and Bravo. ‘The spirit of the independent filmmaker infuses these expeditions, inspiring us to explore far more than traditional nature or fishing programs.

  • All six complete episodes
  • Commentary by writer/director/musician John Lurie
  • ‘Big Heart’ music video by John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards
  • Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

2 Comments

  • If “Down By Law” ever gets a blu-ray release, I’ll pay $59.95 for it. I’m just sayin’

    I actually hope that they do NOT cut too deeply into the retail prices. These special films which have been given such extraordinary TLC restoration treatment SHOULD be in a class of their own in terms of the price point. When you have a Criterion blu-ray package in your hand, you know you’re holding something special… something of real value that elevates the esteem of your collection. There is a reason that you don’t find Criterion titles at Walmart (here in Canada anyway).

    Besides, I know I’m not alone in feeling that I am more than happy to support the more expensive Criterion titles so that they will be able to afford to keep doing the wonderful things that they do.

  • I think the price reduction is a good move, even a bit overdue. It’s a concession to the reality that DVDs are pretty commonplace items nowadays, and simply in terms of what one can get in newer releases for the same money charged for older titles (many of their first 100 spines, especially, though not the later re-issues), there’s no contest in terms of value. I like the titles they chose too – good variety, not all just old stuff, interesting and accessible “loss leaders” that can in draw new viewers. Down By Law is the only one I don’t already have (I prize my “book version” of Short Cuts) so I’ll be happily picking that one up when the price drops.

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