Dear Home Entertainment Executives,
Greetings from Minnesota, ladies and gentlemen. There once was a time in the late 1990s where I had but two vices and/or addictions. They were cigarettes and alcohol, sometimes in moderation, sometimes not, and life was good. These vices/addictions had put some mild strain on my finances, but I was willing to take the hit to my wallet for the good times that naturally ensued. Then the digital video disc came along in 1997 or 1998, I believe, and I must say I was awestruck. The audio and video quality of the movies was far greater than that of the VHS cassette tape, they were far less clunky, and had these great extras or "special features" as we've come to know them. Still, with all these amenities of the DVD, I thought the coolest thing about this new technology was you didn't have to rewind them, thus putting an end to the retarded phrase shown on rented VHS tapes everywhere, "Be Kind, Rewind." Still, I was a tad skeptical that this might be a fad like the laserdisc, and kept to my VHS tapes for a few years, making sure the DVD was to be a mainstay in home entertainment, until Christmas of 2001 when I got my first DVD player and new addiction in DVD's. In those 4 1/2 years I have gone from a DVD novice to owning 361 DVD's, reviewing them for this fine website and becoming a bit of an expert on them, if I say so myself. But, I'm not writing to you all this very day to pat you on the back. There is trouble in DVD-Land, and, to paraphrase Peter Finch's memorable line from Network, I'm mad as hell about these "Special Edition" DVD's, and I'm not gonna take it anymore.
These used to not be a problem at all, when I first entered the land of the DVD. When a new DVD was released, it would be in the pimped-out special edition for the normal price and then, later in the DVD's run, you'd scrap the special edition and put out a bare-bones disc, which obviously got people to get their DVD's right when they came out, so they could get all the goodies. The consumer was actually kind of punished for waiting, because, unless you could find it used, all that was left was the bare-bones version. Well, the strategy worked, because almost every Tuesday I would find myself at Target or Wal-Mart picking up the latest addition to my collection, and I'm sure there are thousands of people just like me in this regard. But, like the little scamps that you are, you wanted more. Now, some DVD's are starting to come out in the two versions at the same time, but with a catch: the bare-bones disc is the normal price, while the special edition is jacked up a few bucks more. Last Tuesday, at my local Target, they carried those two versions of King Kong, with the bare-bones version selling for a thrifty $13.99 while the special edition went for $20.99. There were also comparable recent releases like this for Jarhead, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the new post-Oscar version of Crash.
So, instead of being punished for not being timely with our purchases, we're being punished for actually liking special features, to the tune of 7 bucks a head. And, if that wasn't enough, if you're a widescreen devotee like I am, the $20.99 version of King Kong is the only one you can get in widescreen, with the bare-bones version only in fullscreen. Life is not good, you bastards! You get us hooked on the DVD's and now have the audacity to charge us more for the special features that make DVD's so great? Who do you people think you are? I do have a solution to all this, but first, there's something else bothering me.
These special editions are also turning into re-releases for older flicks so now you're basically punishing anyone who bought the first edition by putting out a new pimped-out edition. In the last few months I've seen a bunch of movies I already own, like The French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon, All the President's Men and many others on the shelves again as special editions. The only one of these flicks that deserved a special edition was the All the President's Men disc, because of the revelation that W. Mark Felt was the man known as "Deep Throat" played by Hal Holbrook in the movie. Then when you add on all these special editions for DVD's when their sequel's come to the theaters, like the recent special edition of Ice Age, it leaves one wondering when exactly do you want us to buy these damn things, because we're sure as hell not going to buy every single edition. So, what can be done about these quandries? Allow me to elaborate.
On the matter of the two versions on the same day, there are a few things that can be done that I would think are reasonable. One way is to simply eliminate the bare-bones DVD's. There are many that don't even like special features and just want the movie, so these folks, if addicted enough to that movie, will only have that one choice of the special edition and thus be forced to buy that one. It's got to be spendy enough just to make widescreen and fullscreen versions, so just scrap the bare-bones edition all together, find a middle ground for the pricing, and we'll be sound as a pound. The other way is to do it like New Line did the Lord of the Rings special editions. The regular version still had plenty of special features and was at the normal price, but the special edition was at a premium price but had premium special features. I have no problem with this way because you're really not feeling ripped off for getting the normal version because there is still enough features and such on the disc to make it a worthwhile purchase, and there are obviously enough people, if so inclined to a particular movie, that will pay upwards of 30 bucks for a super-duper special edition. The way you have it set up now basically leaves me feeling that I'm getting ripped off if I don't spend that extra 7 bucks, and the American people don't like getting ripped off, ladies and gentlemen.
On the other issue, of re-released special editions, there is a very simple solution here: reimburse us a little bit if we have the old version. I see these offers on DVD's all the time where if you buy that disc and a few others from the same company, they'll send you 5 bucks back, or something like that. I don't see how this is any different. Put a little form on the DVD that says we'll get 5 bucks back if we buy the new version and send in the proof of purchase from the old version. Hell, why not have us just send in the whole DVD. We obviously won't need it anymore, and you could surely recycle the case and maybe the disc itself. Also, if we send the DVD back to the studio, it might even prevent pirating of the disc if we sell it used or give it away, and we all know your stance on pirating.
I am a DVD freak, ladies and gentlemen, and those of you in the home entertainment divisions are responsible for that. I have no qualms with this status of mine. I love DVD's, plain and simple. Tuesday afternoon's at a Target or Wal-Mart have become commonplace for me these past few years, and I wouldn't have it any other way. However, you're starting to push your luck, ladies and gentlemen. If you think I'll stand idly by while you keep pushing your luck, charging us extra for special features and throwing out tons of extra special edition discs, you're dead wrong. Shortly after this letter goes live on the site, I will send this letter to every home entertainment division I can find. If need be, I'll start an Internet petition, to show the people in home entertainment that I do not stand alone in this matter, because I know I don't. I have laid out some proper solutions to these problems, and now it's left to you, the ladies and gentlemen of the home entertainment industry. I've said my piece. The ball is in your court now. I'll be waiting.
Any and all responses welcome. Email me at [email protected]