Criterion Collection

The Criterion Collection is a video-distribution company selling ‘important classic and contemporary films’ to cinema aficionados founded in 1984. Criterion Collection releases were the first to provide several features that have become standard.

The 1984 Criterion Laserdisc release of King Kong included the world’s first optional commentary audio track. The Criterion series is noted for helping to standardize the letterbox ratio, bonus features, and special editions. They are also known for taking great lengths to restore and clean all movies released on their label.

Letterboxing is the widescreen, cinema aspect ratio presentation of a movie on a television set screen. Although initially disliked by some viewers — as it did not fill the entire 4:3 TV screen — it became the standard videographic presentation of the image frame as intended by the director and the cinematographer. This change restored the original aspect ratio, from the cropped (25–50 percent) images fitting the 4:3 aspect ratio of the standard television set. In 1987, The Criterion Collection laserdisc of Blade Runner (1982) proved to be the seminal home video disc that established the letterbox aspect ratio as the home video presentation standard.

The Criterion Collection began in 1984 with the releases of Citizen Kane (1941) on laserdisc. The company later became notable for pioneering the ‘special edition’ DVD concept, containing bonus materials (trailers, commentaries, documentaries, alternate endings, deleted scenes, et cetera).

The Criterion Collection’s second catalog title, King Kong (1933), was the début of the scene-specific audio commentary contained in a discrete analog channel of the laserdisc. It featured US film historian Ronald Haver reporting about the production, cast, screenplay, production design and special effects. He also is the commentator for the Casablanca (1942), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), and The Wizard of Oz (1939) laserdiscs.

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