I saw 127 Hours on the big screen when it came to German cinemas in February this year. I enjoyed it a lot. So much so, that I basically came out of the theatre and said to myself: “I’m going to get the DVD as soon as it’s out.” Not only did I want to see it again and show it to friends, I’m also a big fan of director Danny Boyle and like his insightful audio commentaries and interviews in the DVD extras of the movies he made so far.
When I wanted to pick up the film this summer, first on my visit to the States and then later here in Germany, I found out that the DVD strangely doesn’t have any bonus material at all. I kept looking around for a Special Edition, more than willing to pay the extra money for what I would get, but there was none. There was only a BluRay, which contained all the stuff I wanted: the alternate ending I had Simon Beaufoy talk about in a podcast, an audio commentary and background material on the story that inspired the film. The BluRay version is the only release of 127 Hours that contains this material.
I noticed about a year ago that Disney started going down the same route. When Fantasia came out, I went and bought the “Special Edition” on the day of release. I couldn’t wait to see one of my favourite animation classics again. The disc did have some extras, so I was content. It was only later that I found out that the BluRay edition featured an additional audio commentary and a feature about the “Schultheis Notebook” in the Disney Family Museum. So the “Special Edition” wasn’t special at all. It was a stripped down version of the release.* As time went on I noted that every new Disney release went this way: a BluRay with lots of features and a half-cooked DVD. If you know of any more releases that do the same, please point them out in the comments.
I don’t own a BluRay player for two reasons: I really don’t think HD is all it’s made out to be and I don’t have the TV to enjoy it. Even though I like to read and write about the technical side of movies, in the end, it’s the movies themselves that are important, not the immaculateness of image and sound. That is not the case when I see a movie in cinemas – where I expect the best possible projection and sound system for the money I paid – but to see it on a disc at home, I am okay with a clear and clean image. It doesn’t have to be clearer and cleaner than when it was shot.
But my viewing preferences are beside the point here. The point is that the whole reason that there is a home video market at all is because home video adds value to just re-releasing a movie at the cinema every few years (like Disney did and still does sometimes). That value originally was that it gives you free choice, when and how often you want to watch the movie again, and that it’s a lot cheaper as well. When Laser Discs and DVDs came along, the studios added more value on top of that and sprinkled extras onto the discs – we here in Germany could also finally watch the film in its original version.
The value that BluRay was supposed to add was a more pristine HD picture and sound. For lots of customers, apparently, that added value didn’t really explain why they should spend more money on movie discs and a new playing device, even if they already had an HDTV. Even now, where BluRays cost almost as much as DVDs when it comes to new releases, people don’t automatically reach for BluRay. And why should they? Most non-movie-buffs I know don’t even care if the image on their TV at home is in the right aspect ratio. Why should they care about the HD-ness of a BluRay in comparison to a DVD?
So what do corporations do whenever the quality of their new product does not improve enough on the old one and people just keep using the senior model? They discontinue it so people are eventually forced to buy the new one. That’s standard business practice. I was expecting the DVD to be taken out of circulation eventually (and I have that big TV and BluRay player lined up for purchase as soon as I want to afford it). What I hate, though, is this mishmash in between – when everything is still released on DVD, even on “Special Editions”, but it suddenly is so much worse than the new kid in town, because the manufacturer wilfully made it so. That’s just annoying. So, Fuck you!, movie studios, for taking it out on the movie lovers. Fuck you very much.
* The release in general could have done with some more bonus stuff, but that’s another story.