In my last editorial I vented a bit about the release of DVDs in Canada that are not available in the Untied States. Well, one company did something about this but unfortunately, took the opposite action from what is needed. The September 28th release of Chasing Amy and From Dawn til Dusk was cancelled. Alliance, the Canadian distributor for Miramax and Dimension, pulled their special editions from pre-release due to pressure from Buena Vista and their parent company, Disney.
First for some background on this decision. Normally, a company will handle its own distribution throughout North America. This would naturally include both the US and Canadian distribution rights. Due to complex licensing agreements Miramax decided to split the distribution in North American between Buena Vista for the US and Alliance for Canada. This is one reason why there was releases planed in Canada but not the US. Since the individual distributors decide the specific features for a DVD release, different provisions were made in the offices of Buena Vista and Alliance. Alliance decided to release a broader range of films including Chasing Amy and From Dawn til Dusk. They also made the decision to release these movies as special editions, complete with the added features most of enjoy of a DVD or Laser Disc. Alliance was also going to release anamorphic transfers of the popular movies, Pulp Fiction and Good Will Hunting. In the States, Pulp Fiction is a very plain vanilla release with nothing exciting in the way of special features.
Since both the US and Canada are region one areas, there developed two different sources of discs playable in the States. Since Buena Vista insisted upon releasing discs that were non-anamorphic and contained few features, the Internet savvy DVD market sought out and found the Alliance discs available via e-commerce. If Buena Vista had maintained the same quality as their Canadian counterpart, this never would have amounted to much at all. Unfortunately, rather than improve the quality of the Buena Vista releases, Alliance will no longer release something that differs from the Buena Vista plans. This means no more special features, no more anamorphic, no release of any movie unless Buena Vista is going to do the same in the States. Since Buena Vista has been slow to provide these aspects of DVD releases, it does not seem as though the DVD owners south of the Canadian border are going to see changes any time soon. Apparently, Buena Vista has applied similar pressure to special releases of Buena Vista films released in the States by Criterion such as the delay of Armageddon until the Buena Vista vanilla release has had a chance to sell. The most frequently forwarded hypothesis for this behavior is to increase profits by controlling the competition. What winds up occurring is the consumer, (remember us? Our money pays for your profits.) winds up either buying an inferior product or is forced to re-purchase the same movie in the enhanced format.
The simple fact of life is people that own DVDs and home theater usually do so because they have a more than casual enjoyment of movies. They were first drawn to letterbox VHS tapes and cable stations that featured letterboxed versions because they wanted to see the film as the director saw it. Now, with such added information as commentary tracks, story boards, deleted scenes, the home theater/DVD viewer is able to see a lot more of the creative process behind the film. We buy DVDs because we want the best quality of audio and video possible and also because we want the most of the media. It would seem to make sense for a company that is in business to release DVDs to strive for a product above the others rather than not only limiting their own releases but acting in a manner to limit others as well. Good business should be based upon raising your product above the others, not by dragging the others down to a lower level. Didnt Buena Vista learn anything by the recent releases of the Titanic and the Matrix? The Titanic was released in plain vanilla format out sold a record number of DVDs. This was for a movie that outsold any other in the boxoffices. Yet, along comes the Matrix, a less popular movie in the theater and it sweeps past Titanic. I am certain that one reason is the Matrix was released on a DVD that used almost every possible DVD extra. In short, it gave the DVD public what it wanted, not only a good movie but a well designed disc as well.
Wake up Buena Vista. Starting being more concerned in how good your discs can be rather than worry about how much worse you can make other discs.