ReelThoughts: April 29, 2008

"Video View"

Commentary by James Berardinelli


The biggest two movies new to DVD this week are available in both standard and Blu-Ray formats. The third film, despite getting its share of accolades, is only arriving as a standard DVD. This would appear to be the shape of things to come, at least for the foreseeable future. It is increasingly likely that there will never be a complete transition to high definition DVDs, no matter how deeply the penetration goes. The current view is that, since Blu-Ray is backward compatible, the two formats can not only peacefully co-exist but can complement each other. As a result, we should limit our expectations regarding which older/niche/smaller titles will make their way to Blu-Ray. Even as high-def becomes more prevalent, a lot of "little" films are still going to be targeted for DVD-only.

The two dual-format releases for this week are the romantic comedy 27 Dresses, which joins an ever-growing group of movies available for home viewing about three months after debuting in theaters, and The Golden Compass, which has taken a more leisurely 4 1/2 months. The movie only available on standard DVD is The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. As with most foreign-language films, the concept of a "release window" has little meaning here since the movie was kicking around the film festival circuits for many months before receiving a "general" North American theatrical release. There have been occasions when foreign films have come out on DVD one or two weeks after completing their limited art house runs.

Turning to television, the most controversial release of the week is Volume 3 of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones. Instead of releasing the TV series as it aired, Lucasfilm re-cut the episodes into 22 "chapters" that eliminated the wrap-around narration by Old Indy. This approach has annoyed fans and, to add insult to injury, the boxed sets are expensive. Volume 3 features the final seven chapters (fourteen TV episodes) and 31 companion documentaries. The list price is a steep $130, although the set can be found discounted for about half that. Still, at a time when the trend is for cheaper DVD presentations of TV shows, this gouging is decidedly un-fan-friendly. It's not going to help George Lucas' reputation among the conflicted legions who love his work but despise his business practices. It's strange to think how much reverence has turned to bitterness in the span of less than one decade.

In other television news, there's The Waltons Season 7, Cheers Season 9, Beverly Hills 90210 Season 4, and Seasons 1, 2, and 3 of I Spy. Amazon.com is also doing some heavily discounted bundling of TV sets already out there. These kinds of buys are tough to pass up if you like the shows and don't already own them. They include: Lost Season 1-3, Scrubs Seasons 1-6, Grey's Anatomy Seasons 1-3, and Desperate Housewives Seasons 1-3. Sales like this are good ways to clear out back inventory since buying trends show that more than 90% of season box sets are purchased during their first month on store shelves.

Next week, Hollywood's attention will shift from video store shelves to multiplexes as the summer blockbuster season gets under way. This is reflected by the anemic list of titles arriving on DVD. Of course, the box office weakness from January through April will be reflected in the home video market from May through July.


The biggest two movies new to DVD this week are available in both standard and Blu-Ray formats. The third film, despite getting its share of accolades, is only arriving as a standard DVD. This would appear to be the shape of things to come, at least for the foreseeable future. It is increasingly likely that there will never be a complete transition to high definition DVDs, no matter how deeply the penetration goes. The current view is that, since Blu-Ray is backward compatible, the two formats can not only peacefully co-exist but can complement each other. As a result, we should limit our expectations regarding which older/niche/smaller titles will make their way to Blu-Ray. Even as high-def becomes more prevalent, a lot of "little" films are still going to be targeted for DVD-only.

The two dual-format releases for this week are the romantic comedy 27 Dresses, which joins an ever-growing group of movies available for home viewing about three months after debuting in theaters, and The Golden Compass, which has taken a more leisurely 4 1/2 months. The movie only available on standard DVD is The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. As with most foreign-language films, the concept of a "release window" has little meaning here since the movie was kicking around the film festival circuits for many months before receiving a "general" North American theatrical release. There have been occasions when foreign films have come out on DVD one or two weeks after completing their limited art house runs.

Turning to television, the most controversial release of the week is Volume 3 of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones. Instead of releasing the TV series as it aired, Lucasfilm re-cut the episodes into 22 "chapters" that eliminated the wrap-around narration by Old Indy. This approach has annoyed fans and, to add insult to injury, the boxed sets are expensive. Volume 3 features the final seven chapters (fourteen TV episodes) and 31 companion documentaries. The list price is a steep $130, although the set can be found discounted for about half that. Still, at a time when the trend is for cheaper DVD presentations of TV shows, this gouging is decidedly un-fan-friendly. It's not going to help George Lucas' reputation among the conflicted legions who love his work but despise his business practices. It's strange to think how much reverence has turned to bitterness in the span of less than one decade.

In other television news, there's The Waltons Season 7, Cheers Season 9, Beverly Hills 90210 Season 4, and Seasons 1, 2, and 3 of I Spy. Amazon.com is also doing some heavily discounted bundling of TV sets already out there. These kinds of buys are tough to pass up if you like the shows and don't already own them. They include: Lost Season 1-3, Scrubs Seasons 1-6, Grey's Anatomy Seasons 1-3, and Desperate Housewives Seasons 1-3. Sales like this are good ways to clear out back inventory since buying trends show that more than 90% of season box sets are purchased during their first month on store shelves.

Next week, Hollywood's attention will shift from video store shelves to multiplexes as the summer blockbuster season gets under way. This is reflected by the anemic list of titles arriving on DVD. Of course, the box office weakness from January through April will be reflected in the home video market from May through July.


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