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4-Disc Extended Version a Consumer Rip-off?

October 21, 2002 at 9:32 pm by Cliff Quickbeam Broadway  - 

Greetings — Quickbeam here.

I have to take a moment to comment on all this DVD craziness.

Most people around here are shouting to the rafters with joy. They are wildly happy that the new Extended Version DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring is about to come out. Rave reviews are springing up all over the Net; and on major DVD websites like The Digital Bits [click here] we see praise like this from editor Bill Hunt: “Its overall presentation quality, breadth and depth of content and thoughtful attention to virtually every detail is unsurpassed in any other DVD release to date.” That’s pretty strong praise!

But others are whining that the “bait and switch” routine is pulling extra dollars out of their pockets and in general making a big stink. I’ve seen articles in the L.A. Times [click here] where consumers and LOTR fans are portrayed as annoyed — even shocked that New Line should “undercut their customers” like that. Over-the-top entertainment writer Glenn Lovell had a colossal hissy-fit in the Boston Globe online edition [click here]. He nearly burst a vein when he found out in August that his new 2-Disc DVD was just a regular edition. In his view, New Line Cinema is “shameless” and “consumed by greed.”

Settle down, Glenn. Please.

I’m going to say some things here that may sound suspicious. I promise you I am not a studio brown-noser trying to score points with the people behind the scenes. I am so not interested in that. I have nothing to gain here. So if I sound like I am rushing to the defense of a big corporation, well, it’s not really that simple. I am a huge DVD enthusiast — with a collection of hundreds of movies. I love everything about the digital format and just want to clear up the air. I’m telling you this as an informed consumer.

New Line is not really “ripping us off,” as so many claim. I truly see the reason in this, and I also sense the careful hand of Peter Jackson, trying to do that little extra something for us. Releasing separate DVD editions makes perfect sense….

…. as long as we are told AHEAD OF TIME!

The keys here are the economics of the market…. and more importantly the information that includes you, the consumer, in what is going on.

Consider what it would look like if New Line released a full 6-disc Giant-Goliath, Super-Duper, Mega-Deluxe Edition DVD with both versions of the film and endless hours of supplements. That retail package would be so costly to produce and distribute it would of course be very costly for consumers to buy. We’re talking upwards of $80 where most people usually spend $19.99 for a new DVD title on sale. Yes, I look for those sales! Few of us, including me, would be able to buy this item within their regular “entertainment budget.” I’m a working class Joe just like the rest of you.

Breaking these DVDs down into separate releases seems to satisfy all of us. There’s the regular movie fans who just want to own “that cool fantasy flick” they saw in theatres. Then, of course, there’s us. We are toughest to please…. and want all the juicy bits of creativity that P.J. and WETA can show us. We are the true connoisseurs. So he went back to make that 4-Disc set with all that extra footage for us. Really, he made it with us in mind: to feed the “high-end appetite” of true Tolkien fans. I’m not going to buy that regular edition, I know that film and have experienced enough of it. This Extended version is what I really want. I am now free to choose.

Do I sound like an educated consumer? Well, I am. And that’s because New Line actually told us ahead of time there will be different editions!! Yeah, it is totally surprising, considering the way most studios treat the home video consumer.

Look, if you want to be really mad, why don’t you get mad at Paramount? They totally suck. Look at what they did with the Star Trek movies on DVD: releasing each film with a pedestrian regular DVD (most of them awful transfers, not even anamorphic widescreen) then coming back just a couple of years later to give us “real special director’s editions.” Now THAT is something worth complaining about. Now I have to go back and re-purchase all my Star Trek if I want the clean, restored, anamorphic discs with all the goodies. I hate Paramount for that. That is truly “double-dipping.” I’m even more angry with Warner Bros. They just made me go out and get the new Amadeus Director’s Cut, which beats by a mile that crappy old DVD they had released. Oh, don’t get me started on Disney. They’re the worst.

It is highly unusual for New Line Cinema to have a big press release and spread the word through all the Tolkien fan sites that we have a choice. Pick one. Pick the other. At least we were honestly told early on. So why on earth are all these people bitching and moaning? Of course the studio is making a boat-load of money off these titles. So what? You can still put your money on what you like best. There was no surprise here…. the information was readily available. I think we should say “Thank you New Line” for the courtesy!

But especially we should remember that P.J. wanted to do it this way. Again it feels like he’s putting forth a lot of extra effort just to please his fans.

Much too hasty,

Quickbeam

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Posted in Old Special Reports on October 21, 2002 by

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