What's Next For Criterion Collection? Social Media Game Afoot

By , Columnist

For fans of The Criterion Collection, that ongoing series of important classic and contemporary films, there's only one thing more fun than getting your hands on a new disc, and that's speculating about what they'll be releasing next. The folks at Criterion, savvy marketers that they are, have embraced that guessing game and have turned their active online presence into an elaborate, tantalizing treasure hunt. 

Criterion's monthly e-mail newsletter, for example, has long included captionless cartoons hinting at future releases... providing you're clever enough to decode them. This month's newsletter featured a panther decked out in a lovely ladies' frock. Guesses ranged from Val Lewton's 1942 Cat People, to Paul Schrader's 1982 remake, to Emir Kusturica's 1998 film Black Cat, White Cat.

However, the general consensus indicates that Criterion will be releasing Island Of Lost Souls, the 1933 horror classic starring Charles Laughton whose advertising prominently featured The Panther Woman. True to form, Criterion is playing coy and no official announcement has been made yet. But if it's true, it's great news indeed. Island Of Lost Souls has never been on quality DVD before and it's easily one of the most requested titles by classic horror fans. 

Criterion's Facebook page and Twitter feed provide equally mysterious clues to what they've got cooking. Here, they'll post screenshots from movies in the pipeline and provide enigmatic glimpses at upcoming cover art. On the morning of May 26, they revealed a shot from one of my favorite movies of all time, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors: Red. Once again, no official announcement has been made but Criterion's definitely got their work cut out for them on this one.

Miramax's DVD box set of the trilogy is already pretty great, with illuminating audio commentaries, interviews, featurettes, and even several of Kieslowski's student films. But if anyone can improve on this set, it's Criterion. 

Home entertainment companies have been surprisingly slow in embracing the potential of social media. Criterion is setting a sterling example of how to use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to their full advantage. They clearly respect their fans and enjoy engaging with them in a playful manner, something virtually no other studios are doing. Warner Archive, the manufactured-on-demand division of Warner Bros., is a notable exception, offering a clever, one-on-one Twitter feed that's a must-follow for movie fans.  

The industry needs to get people excited about DVD and Blu-ray again. Criterion and Warner Archive have found a way to do that, encouraging brand loyalty and really listening to what their customers have to say. Other companies should take note and follow their lead. In the meantime, let the great Criterion guessing game continue.

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Adam Jahnke has been writing about film since age 13, when he began foisting a self-published newsletter on friends and family (copies of which are now mercifully lost to the ages). In 2000, he joined the staff of the highly respected DVD website The Digital Bits, where he continues to serve as columnist…

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