Criterion announces support for 4K UHD Blu-ray, beginning with Citizen Kane

Coming soon in full 4K.
Enlarge / Coming soon in full 4K.


The Criterion Collection, one of the most renowned distributors of home films on various formats, has long been dogged for not releasing movies on the latest high-res disc format, 4K UHD Blu-ray. That finally changes this week with an announcement of Criterion films coming to 4K discs later this year, and it seems like they may have had good reason to stay mum for so long.

As it turns out, Criterion waited to secure the rights to a megaton film before making its 4K bow: Citizen Kane. This film choice, coming to 4K Blu-ray in “November 2021,” is remarkable for a few reasons. But, beyond its inclusion in typical best-films-ever lists, Criterion hasn’t been able to release a version of Citizen Kane since the company’s very first laserdisc release of a film in 1984.

That same month, five other films from Criterion will join Citizen Kane in 4K UHD Blu-ray format:

  • A Hard Day’s Night, the breakthrough Beatles film
  • Menace II Society**, the Hughes brothers’ revolutionary 1993 crime drama
  • Mulholland Dr., one of David Lynch’s many cult classics
  • The Piano**, the 1993 film that swept that year’s Academy Awards
  • The Red Shoes, a 1948 British breakout in American cinema

Asterisks indicate a film’s first-ever release by Criterion on any format.

The Red Shoes is arguably this initial list’s most promising release on a technical level, as Criterion has promised Dolby Atmos and HDR support for “select” films in its roster, and that Technicolor masterpiece could particularly stand to benefit from the extra sheen of higher dynamic range on modern TV sets. But really, every film listed here will likely benefit from Criterion’s reputation for careful digital translations—especially in 4K, where some studios have erred harshly on the side of digitally cleaning up film grain instead of letting 4K panels faithfully present original filmmakers’ visions, 35mm warts and all.

We’re hopeful that Criterion will maintain its reputation as it enters an even higher-resolution home-video era later this year—and look forward to further updates when the company announces its full slate of November films (4K and otherwise) later this month.

In the meantime, boutique publishers like Arrow, BFI, and Kino Lorber have somewhat filled in the gap for 4K-hungry disc cinephiles in terms of releases outside the modern blockbuster spectrum, while major studios have only offered a trickle of classics in 4K disc options.

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