HobbitEE_1400x2100_US Physical (i.e.: Blu-ray 3D and DVD) copies of the Extended Edition of the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were supposed to go on sale in stores in the USA on November 5, with the UK follow on November 11.

But the journey from screen to store to the hands of fans has proved to be as challenging as Bilbo’s own adventure. Over the past couple of days, TORn has received numerous reports from perturbed fans via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

Fans report that the Extended Edition is unavailable at Target in all forms, difficult to find at Best Buy and Barnes & Noble (where you might grab a Blu-ray copy, but are unlikely to find the DVD), and that Amazon is temporarily out of stock of the DVD and shipments are being delayed by one to three days.

What’s going on? Well, we have reached out to Warner Bros. to find out what’s happening, and provide some firm answers. In the meantime, read our complete report on the issues that fans have been experiencing trying to get their hands on a copy of the EE — and a couple of things you need to be wary of lest you end up with a version that contains less than you expected!

Few copies of the Extended Edition available

Fans in cities large and small have spent all day driving to nearby Best Buys and Targets only to come up empty handed. (Is Target boycotting the product because Walmart got it first?). Even in places such as Chicago and Los Angeles, stock availability is low (only a handful of copies) when it’s available at all.

Here’s one fan’s experience:

This actually happened in the Twin Cities, and it really was a dark and snow-stormy night.
After determining Best Buy probably had the best retail price of $24.99,
I looked on internet for any midnight sales, including specifically Best Buy stores. Nothing.
So I went to Best Buy after work Tu 11/5. Nothing !??? The guy said they sold most of them at midnight and were all sold out!
So I checked the nearby Target, nothing.
So I checked the nearby Barnes and Noble. They had a table with Hobbit stuff in their multimedia area but the lady said no Blu rays!
So I checked another not-so-near Best Buy. Nothing. The guy said they and still another store each received only two copies!
Finally went to the Wal-Mart nearby. They had a tonne of Blu-Rays for only $19.96.

Walmart’s two-disc (half)-Extended Edition causes confusion

The mislabelled two-disc Extended Edition that Walmart is selling.
The mislabelled two-disc Extended Edition that Walmart is selling.
Walmart appears to be the bright spot of availability, but this comes with a catch. Walmart is apparently also selling an exclusive two-disc Extended Edition on DVD that lacks much of the additional commentary and appendices of the full five-disc versions. Instead, this two-disc version has only two of the additional features: “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth” and “Durin’s Folk: Creating the Dwarves.”

Walmart doesn’t seem to be carrying the 5-disc DVD version of the Extended Edition with all of the appendices. Instead, they have a cheaper “Walmart Exclusive” 2-disc version of the film with only two features titled “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth” and “Durin’s Folk: Creating the Dwarves.” I didn’t check their Blu-ray versions.

At least one reader has been caught out by the difference, and states that it was incorrectly marketed by Walmart:

Walmart only has a two disc on Long Island depsite theyre [sic] website claiming it’s an exclusive 5 disc. I called multiple stores. Will have to get it from Amazon and return the other Walmart copy or give it away.

TheOneRing.net checked out Walmart’s online marketing for the Extended Edition. There’s the Blu-ray + Ultraviolet. There’s the five-disc DVD + Ultraviolet (note: currently out-of-stock).

And then there’s this, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Extended Edition) (DVD + UltraViolet) (Walmart Exclusive) (Widescreen). The product photo (see the screencapture at above-right) shows a five-disc set, and the description is matches that of the five-disc set. Except (as one who bought and reviewed the product tells) it’s apparently the two-disc set:

NOT ITEM IN PICTURE | 11/06/2013
the picture next to the item shows a 5 disc set when i went to pic it up i was given the 2 disc if i wanted the 2 disc i could of just went in to the store and bought it there was a ton on the shelf so i drove all the way over there for nothing….never ordering agian [sic] on wallmart.com

Another reader tell us their EE DVD does not contain some of the advertised features:

I bought the extended edition of the Hobbit today at walmart, (very cool)
Except that two of the special features it says to be included are not on the dvds…”The Company of Thorin” and “Durin’s folk: creating the dwarves” are both missing completely from the dvds…Just wondering if you’ve heard this from anyone else or if it’s a defective dvd?

It’s not just Walmart, and it’s not just the DVD. Another reader encountered a similar issue with Best Buy, this time purchasing a Blue-ray 3D version.

… there’s some trickery going on with some offers for the Hobbit EE Blu Ray in the USA. People need to be careful. Best Buy was offering a 4 disc steelbook edition of the Hobbit Blu-Ray 3D for $29.99. A great bargain! You get the whole 3D extended cut plus the two appendices for a great price in a great collectable cover. The downside… it’s Blu-Ray 3D only with ultraviolet copy…meaning….no regular blu-ray included….which means…..no audio commentary included with this set….at all…..I am extremely disappointed and feel cheated. I expected the commentary to be on the 3D discs, otherwise I would have found the 5 disc edition somewhere. People need to be careful out there…

So, what’s going on?

The sheer scale of the Extended Edition ought to make it the biggest home video release of the year. Five discs, multiple formats, nine hours of commentary and extras in thirteen different parts. We know that Jackson and his team put thousands of hours into making it. We know that Jackson considers it a key part of his Middle-earth experience — his instinct is always to show viewers more, not less.

  • That’s why these movies are long. As he has said himself: “We’re not very good at making short movies, unfortunately.”
  • That’s why we had the 3D screening at CinemaCon in April 2012. Yes, they got a bit singed over that, but there’s no doubt that Jackson wanted people to see and share his excitement about 3D 48fps.
  • That’s why we have the production blogs. Yes, it’s been a bit spotty this year, but there are more coming on the heels of the one that debuted at the Fan Event the other day.
  • And that’s why a small group of fans got to see 20 minutes of previously unscreened footage the other day. In fact, Jackson told the audience in Wellington that Warner Bros. didn’t want to show nearly so much. And if the running time for Desolation of Smaug is approximately 160 minutes, some of us have seen 12.5 per cent of the film.