Since this is an editorial I feel it is alright to express purely personal views. I do invite rebuttal and comments from any that may agree or disagree. Well, here goes. The DVD has without a doubt changed the very nature of home theater. Still, there are many things being done by the studios that seem to be extremely unfair to the consumer. It is, after all, the consumer that provides the revenue that fuels the studios and I feel that their concerns should be very high in the minds of the studio executives that makes the decisions. Sure, the goal of the studios is to make money. I am not denying them this but to extract profits at the expense of the consumer is deployable.
First there is the release of the Special Edition. This is a full feature release usually done some months after the initial release of a movie. Not knowing there is a better edition on the horizon the consumer will purchase the regular edition because they want the movie for their collections. Then, a few months later, a better edition is released and since the consumer desires those additions they must purchase the newer disc or go without the features. This is a rip off plain and simple. Rather than rush to release an inferior edition perhaps the studios should put a bit more effort into the production of the full feature release, even it it takes a little bit longer. Some of the studios shout that it takes longer to obtain the rights for certain added features. Couldn't this be done at the time the film is produced knowing full well that a DVD release is down the road? This seems to be a modernization of an old ploy. Many studios release a pan and scan version of a VHS tape only to release the letterbox version months later. Since it takes extra effort to create the pan and scan and since the letterbox version is the original format of the film, why can't they be released together allowing the consumer to make their choice then? The worse case of this is the release of the letterbox editions of the Indiana Jones trilogy. The letterbox versions only recently came out although the pan and scan tapes have been available for years. There is also no DVD release of these extremely popular films.
While on the subject of pan and scan versus letterbox, the makers of the 1999 version of the Mummy crossed the line with simultaneous and separate releases of a pan and scan and letterbox version of the film. DVD was designed to hold more than one version of a film. It is already common practice to have one side of a DVD feature the full screen version while the other side has the widescreen. This provides the consumer with a choice of viewing without having to make a choice in purchasing.
Another ploy that seems to be developing is the separate release of the theater rated version of a film with the unrated version. Case in point is the release of the very popular film, American Pie. Once again the studio decided to make two releases of this film rather than provide both on the same disc. Part of the standard for DVD is seamless branching. This permits the viewer to decide which version to watch and also makes both versions available. Films like Kalifornia, Poison Ivy and many others have this feature enabled. Some of these are in far less popular movies than American Pie which makes a person think that the motive was pure greed. DVDs have wonderful features but they require the studios dedication to the full function of the format to make it work.
In a previous editorial I spoke about different releases for Canada then released in the USA. This again is studio greed. Why not make the best release possible, especially to the area where the majority of consumers reside? Studios should strive to give the best possible discs to the consumers. After all it is our hard earned money that keeps them in business. If the disc is inferior because of legal problems, again the usual response by the studio, then at least let the price reflect this difference in quality. All too often the price of the inferior disc, like the price of the standard edition, is almost the same as the disc that features several enhancements.
No pet peeve editorial can be complete without mentioning George Lucas. While I will be the first to state that Mr. Lucas is a brilliant director his decision to withhold the Star Wars movies from DVD release is upsetting. Mr. Lukas has pioneered digital frontiers in movie making. Why is he so reticent to use the best digital format available to showcase his movies? The release in VHS tape for Phantom Menace is spring of 2000 yet Lucas has repeatedly stated that the DVD release of any Star Wars movie will not be until 2005 or 2006. Why make the fans wait? It can't be money this time since there is no doubt that DVD releases of any of the Star Wars films will sell out. They are perfect for home theater and true digital surround sound. Mister Lucas, you made your money on our purchases, please return the favor.