While Criterion’s decision to release its upcoming November title Zatoichi as a dual-format product may have been construed as a baffling waste at first glance, the company recently explained their motivations for the change. Their reasons are essentially what one would suspect. With the customer base split 60/40 between Blu-ray and DVD, Criterion need only focus on the volume required of a single title, not multiple versions of the same. Beyond allowing for greater efficiency, narrowing their focus to one product (instead of preparing two releases, a DVD and Blu-ray) also reduces the economic risk associated with high volume pressings–that same move which signaled a welcome and substantial drop in the average SRP for their titles.
Criterion was quick to assure its customers that the price point on the Blu-ray would remain unchanged, while the DVD product would be eventually phased out. The company also noted their plans to retroactively repackage older titles in the dual-format.
Though the decision means only an extra disc for someone like me, I nevertheless enthusiastically support whatever plan that keeps Criterion in the black without diminishing the quality of their product (and without needing to raise their prices!). The move may actually increase their customer base, as customers who prefer Blu-ray may lend out their DVD copy to friends and family. But then, does anyone really lend out their Criterions? Perhaps they might now.
What does Criterion’s new business model mean for you?