When to Start and/or Stop
By Jon Waterman
DVD consumers who love their “Special Editions” should be
outraged. Major studios are taking full advantage of you.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The studios are
just looking to make as much money as they can. It’s their
business. However, the general public should be aware of what’s
Most DVD owners probably know what I mean when I say “bare bones”
edition. For those who don’t, it refers to a DVD that has
little or no extra features included. Lately, several bare bones
DVDs have been released with the intention of making a special edition
The problem is not with the production and release of two or more versions
of the DVD. I believe that the studios should make their intentions
more publicly known. If every DVD buyer read the news about upcoming
discs everyday, then the issue wouldn’t be so bad. The more
people are made aware, the less the studios have to gain.
Let me give you a couple quick examples to illustrate what I’m talking
about, since I may not be too clear.
Columbia TriStar released “Black Hawk Down” this summer.
The film has been one of the best selling discs of the year. Sometime
in the near future, the “Special Edition” will hit the shelves
loaded with all the features and extras the original disc lacked.
Columbia TriStar (again) just released “Panic Room” as a Superbit
title. Now, Superbit titles are a little different. Superbit
DVDs take all the space that would normally be used for novelties, such
as extra features and animated menus, and devotes it towards the picture
and sound quality. So, as it stands, “Panic Room” has
no special stuff. Don’t worry, though, because a 2-disc edition
is on the way a few months down the road.
Lastly, for now, let’s take Grease. The film (as I am writing
this) hasn’t even hit stores yet. The DVD is something of
a special edition. It contains retrospective interviews and the
like. However, look out, because in 2004, Paramount will bring us
a newer, even more super-special edition of everyone’s favorite
John Travolta musical film.
So, now you know what I’m ranting over. The studios put out
cheaper versions of a DVD just to get it out there, then come back after
a little time has passed and then the fans end up paying for the same
Will the studios change their ways? No. Of course not.
They have no reason to do so. Their concern is with making money,
and this is a great way for them to accomplish that goal. To be
somewhat fair, most of the time, studios do announce plans for revisiting
a disc at or around the same time they announce the street date for the
first version. Unfortunately, the only people they announce this
to, is the DVD industry itself. So, perhaps it should be the job
of the media to keep the public more informed as to when to hold on to
their cash and when it may be safe to spend it. An educated consumer
is a smart consumer.
For some people, this is a non-issue. Those concerned only with
owning the movie on DVD don’t need to worry or care about if another
version is coming out in the future. In fact, they should be quite
content knowing that they didn’t have to spend the extra few dollars
for the special stuff they would never watch. But for those of us
who enjoy listening to commentaries or seeing documentaries on the various
aspects of making our favorite movies, re-releases can be a problem.
There once was a time when those looking for special features would just
avoid bare bones editions and hope for a day when a more robust DVD would
come out. Examples of this happening are many (“Unusual Suspects,”
“Pulp Fiction,” “Gremlins,” “The Fugitive,”
“The Terminator (1 & 2),” “Monty Python and the
Holy Grail,” the list goes on and on).
However, now we have to wonder if the “Ultimate Edition” we
buy really isn’t just penultimate. A good example of a jam-packed
release that was overshadowed by a bigger version is “Pearl Harbor.”
Thousands rushed out to buy the 2-disc version when it was released.
Many were disappointed to learn of the 4-disc extended “Vista Series”
that came out only a few months later. The two versions of “Pearl
Harbor” were actually somewhat widely publicized from the beginning,
however a lot of people fell into the “trap” anyway.
A similar occurrence is happening right now with the “Lord of the
Rings” DVD. The 2-disc, theatrical release came out in August.
All along, the public was told that the extended cut of the movie would
be released in November as a 4-disc collector’s edition. Despite
this, “Lord of the Rings” topped the sales charts and is currently
the second highest selling disc of the year (behind “Harry Potter”).
In this case, even more people are aware of the upcoming release, and
probably even plan on buying it right away. Those who don’t,
however, could be dismayed at what the studio is doing.
So, if another version of the same movie is going to be released, how
much time should pass?
Well, most proponents of special editions would say, “Do it right
the first time or don’t do it at all.” Sometimes, they
do just that. The upcoming “Ed Wood” DVD was given a
street date and then pushed back, so that Tim Burton could participate
and add more good things.
But, the studios are playing off the public’s need to have their
new releases as soon as possible. If they can make some more money
along the way, then they will. There’s no good way to measure
the correct time frame. It depends on the individual.
Some may be ready for a new version and new extras in a few months; some,
a few years. The individual decides when they’ve gotten their
money’s worth out of the DVD and thus could rationalize buying the
new disc without feeling cheated by the studios.
Hopefully, I’ve opened a few eyes. If you want to read up
on DVD news, I would suggest www.thedigitalbits.com
for your viewing pleasure.
I’m going to close this rant by listing some (not all) of the DVDs
that exist and have newer versions in production now.
Black Hawk Down
Lilo & Stitch (first version not released)
Grease (first version not released)
of the Rings
The Friday the 13th Series
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Stargate (yes, again)
And many, many more.
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