Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fox Stripping Extras From Rental DVDs

Interesting news for DVD fans: in an attempt to drive more DVD sales, Fox will be creating separate DVDs for the rental market.

Want to watch the extras? You'll have to purchase the DVD.

Another issue of possible concern: I recently noted the perplexing lack of chapter selections in my review of ROME ADVENTURE (1962), which is part of the Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection.

This week I saw a note at the Turner Classic Movies Message Boards quoting "DVD Savant" Glenn Erickson as saying that Warner Bros. is cutting expenses by no longer offering chapter selections on non-"Special Edition" DVDs.

If this news is accurate, it's a real disappointment, as the convenience of chapter selections is one of the things which makes DVDs such a step up from video. It's an especially important feature for musicals, and it's also a real plus for movie viewers such as myself; I often must split my movie viewing into multiple sittings, and since I share DVD players with several family members, I can't always leave a DVD in the machine waiting for me to resume the movie.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I kind of guessed that about the Chapter Selections and extras for WB's DVDs. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if other movie studios followed suit.

With the Recession, everyone is cutting costs and stripping things that are now considered luxuries but before were considered essential. I work in the children's book industry and I've seen the same thing happen with books. Cheaper paper, fewer pop-ups, more paperbacks, etc.

I don't blame them. Since I'm an eternal optomist, I'd like to think that stripping down the DVDs helps keep costs low and allows the companies to keep releasing classic films on DVD.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

You remind me of another issue, Raquelle: there are a fairly significant number of boxed DVD sets which have been "in the works" for months or years and have yet to be released. I hope they make it in the market eventually, as classic DVD releases seem to be slowing. Among the sets I've been watching for: Garfield, Turner, Henie, Tracy, Harlow, and Hayworth boxed sets; Grable Volume 2 (I know extras were completed on this one); SHOW BOAT 3-Film set; ANDY HARDY series; and RAINTREE COUNTY.

I did hear a rumor that Esther Williams Set #2 will be released later this year. :)

Best wishes,

1:09 PM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Wow! I didn't know about those Laura. You are so in the know.

That makes sense too. Box sets can be a risk. They are high priced so companies get more return on a sale, and customers think they are getting a deal because the individual DVDs cost less in a box set than outside one. But if a box set doesn't do well in the market it could be financially disastrous for the company producing it.

I know the book industry is also leaning towards fewer boxed sets for the same reason. Too high a risk in uncertain times.

Oh, I would be first in line for a Harlow boxed set. ::wimper::

1:54 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Here's an article of related interest on the sales of DVDs vs. rentals...


3:15 PM  
Blogger Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

As someone who has purchased roughly a megaton of classic films on DVD, I'm sort of ambivalent about the issue of extras. Generally, all I'm interested in is a nice print of a movie I'm fond of--and if they throw in some interviews or documentaries, fine...if not, it's no reason to be upset.

But this kind of...oh, "DVD segregation" is the best I have on hand to describe it--where the extras are on one type of disc but not the other...well, that kind of concept really bites. I bow to no one in wishing that more people would take the time to consider adding classic titles to their libraries, but boosting sales would work far better by making these discs more affordable rather than punishing people who are curious to watch a classic movie but aren't financially secure to make the commitment by, in effect, censoring the content.

And as for the idea of eliminating chapter stops...well, that's just prima facia evidence that the people involved in making these decisions got where they're at today through nepotism and "it ain't what you know, it's who you know." The idea of fast-forwarding through a DVD because some moron wanted to save a few bucks by removing chapter stops is lunacy at best.

In closing, I would just like to say that I'd be all over a Garfield box set like John Goodman on a baked ham. Julie's the man!

6:54 PM  
Blogger Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Okay, I just got back from reading the article that Laura linked to in the comment above mine...

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to explain why rentals are outpacing sales. While most people wouldn't have a problem renting something like Paul Blart: Mall Cop very few of them would actually own the darn thing.

I know I wouldn't. Sure, I should probably refrain from commenting on a movie I haven't seen but as someone much wiser than I once said: "You don't have to eat a whole egg to know that it's rotten."

6:59 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It's interesting to me that other film fans aren't all that interested in the my own case, whether a DVD has nice extras will often "sell" me on buying it, rather than just hanging on to my video copy. I love extras, and members of my family are the same way, from my dad to my kids. I wonder if we're in the minority, if it's 50-50, or just how many people out there are as into extras as we are?

Ivan, you make a lot of good points. :) I'm also interested in Raquelle's perspective, as someone who is working in another struggling business.

Best wishes,

7:41 PM  
Blogger mel said...

Raquelle said: "stripping down the DVDs helps keep costs low". But surely the cost of mastering two separate discs for two different markets defeats the purpose? And I don't see how cutting extra features would save the DVD industry any money as the work has already been done. Unless, of course, there is an additinal disc involved.

10:28 PM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

I'm with Mel and everyone else on this one- even basic "cheap-O" DVDs have chapter selection on them. I believe the chapter selection is not saving them nearly anything- and the cost of physical discs as well as mass production of DVD prints are not as expensive as they would make it seem. If it were there wouldn't be as many low budget or independant DVD makers like VCI around. Think about it- you can buy a nice stack of blanks and for the cost of the program on your computer, some wires and even a nice labeling program, you can transfer DVR or taped movies to DVD yourself: fairly easily.
I believe that this is designed for pushing more consumers towards purchasing Blu-Ray. That is the real cost that is killing them; operating and mass producing for 2 different formats. They haven't really cut back on some of the Blu-Ray features- in fact many studios are promoting them over DVDs. If the studios can strip down DVD to the basics and then promote the Blu-Ray with tons of extras- the possibility to convert so-called DVD Hold outs becomes a greater one.
Consider Disney's recent move to include a DVD copy of Pinocchio in it's Blu-Ray disc. The idea is to hook some one to buy the Blu-Ray now so they don't stay away if they are concerned about buying a Blu-Ray player or not. They buy the disc and enjoy the DVD now and know they have the Blu-Ray in their library already if they upgrade to the new player. No repeat purchase. Pretty clever on Disney's part.
Either way I think this is more evidence of an industry trying to steer consumers in a particular direction. It's very much a concern for a classic film fan such as all of us here, because look at how many great films that were available on VHS- but never made the transition to DVD. I know each of us have our own list of films we have been pining for, to hit DVD. If the industry flips to Blu-Ray en masse, then it has the effect of turning back the clock and starting all over again for classic films. Sure we can play the DVDs on Blu-Ray players, but the studios will be, again, caught up in re-releasing the same tried and true material.
Digital (or otherwise) download is the true future I believe. I would love to have an enormous hard drive filled with films that I could pull up and watch with the click of a button (oh wait- isn't Netflix already doing that? Huh?).
Sorry about the long comment- but this really grinds my gears.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Evangeline Holland said...

I actually don't care about DVD extras--I just want the movies! I'm pleased when there are extras--documentaries, commentaries--but don't require them, since a few of the box-sets I own have cartoons I've never watched and have no desire to. Now, if they began to package DVDs with biographies of the stars, or mini-bios, I'd be first in line.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

J.C., enjoyed your comments, as always. :) Interesting thoughts about the push to Blu-Ray. I know I've had no desire to begin collecting Blu-Ray, and have heard a number of negative things (long loading time, technical glitches, fewer extras) about B-R along with how great the picture is. I would be most annoyed if they try to drive us to Blu-Ray by moving the extras there.

An interesting thing which I attribute to Blu-Ray is I've noticed a number of recent DVDs going back to packaging widescreen & fullscreen in one DVD set, which was common when DVDs first came on the market. I assume this is because Blu-Ray provided additional competition for shelf space.

Evangeline, one of the things I love about Fox DVDs, especially the sadly defunct Fox Studio Classics line, is they often include a BIOGRAPHY special on the pertinent star, such as Linda Darnell, Jennifer Jones, and more. They are a lot of fun.

I don't watch a lot of the cartoons, but I do enjoy some -- however, they are loved by my kids so I like knowing that even with a set that might not interest my children that much, there's something in it for them. My 10-year-old son was ecstatic to discover that the new Natalie Wood set is a treasure trove of Roadrunner and Speedy Gonzales cartoons!

Anyway, always interested to hear people's thoughts on extras.

Best wishes,

5:16 PM  
Blogger NoirGirl said...

Somehow I missed this post when you originally wrote it, so I hope you won't mind if I comment now. :)

I'm kind of a fence sitter when it comes to extras. I usually like them a lot, especially if they include outtakes and deleted scenes. The 2 disc special edition of The Adventures of Robin Hood, for example is loaded with color home movies taken during the filming. It's lots of fun to watch. But, when it comes to commentaries by modern "film experts" who had nothing to do with the making of a film, I can happily get along with out them. I really like the documentaries, though because they often impart information that can't otherwise be obtained.

I think Raquelle has a great point, too. I'd much rather buy a high quality copy of a film with no extras now than wait ages for it to go to DVD because the company is preparing extras.

The elimination of chapter stops is unforgivable. I can't believe it costs all that much more to put chapter stops on a disc. I'm like you, and can't usually finish watching a film in one sitting. Or else, there's one particular part I'd like to see - like a musical number. It's unfair to steal the chapter stops!

5:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Casey,

Thanks much for adding your thoughts to the discussion! I'm finding the varied attitudes toward extras quite interesting.

I have to admit that I love many of the commentators who weren't around for the making of favorite might be film noir expert Eddie Muller. I also especially like Jeanine Basinger and my daughter's cinema professors, Rick Jewell and the ultra-fast-talking Drew Casper.

I hope the elimination of chapter stops is a bad idea which will be dropped quickly! We'll have to see what transpires in the months to come...

Best wishes,

11:07 PM  

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