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Sony's 4K-Mastered, Uni Steelbooks, Disney's odd Oz SKUs & an overdue industry rant

April 09, 2013 - 4:12 pm   |   By 

Happy Tuesday, Bits-ers.  We’ve got some news and whatnot for you today, but first…

Our own Russell Hammond has updated the Release Dates & Artwork section with all the latest Blu-ray, DVD and Video Game cover artwork and Amazon.com pre-order links.  As always, a portion of anything you order from Amazon in the same session (after clicking through to them from our links) goes to help support our work here at The Bits and we really appreciate it!

Now then, Tim has just checked in with a review of Shout! Factory’s new Woochi: The Demon Slayer on Blu-ray.  The disc arrives in stores today and it sounds like it’s pretty fun.  We’ve also updated our review database today with another pair of BD reviews from the original Bits website:  Tim’s take on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (from Warner Home Video) and District 9 (from Sony).  Enjoy!

Speaking of Sony, in announcement news today the studio has revealed their first batch of “4K-Mastered” Blu-ray releases due on 5/14.  Keep in mind, these are NOT actual 4K Blu-rays.  They’re essentially the BD equivalent of Sony’s Superbit DVDs from a few years back – simply mastered from 4K source material with high video data rates, but still just 1080p.  My personal response to these is similar to my reaction to the Superbit DVDs back in the day:  If you can master Blu-rays in better quality, why haven’t you been doing it all along?  Anyway, the specific titles to look for on 5/14 are Ghostbusters, Glory, Taxi Driver, Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man, Angels & Demons, The Karate Kid (2010), The Other Guys, Battle: Los Angeles and Total Recall (2012).  At least the SRP is just $19.99 (which makes them just $14.99 on Amazon).  See the cover artwork below.

Meanwhile, Universal has set a number of their catalog BD titles for re-release in “comic book-style” Steelbook packaging on 6/25, including The Big Lebowski, The Chronicles of Riddick, Death Race, Doom, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Hot Fuzz, The Hulk, The Incredible Hulk, The Mummy (1999), Paul, Pitch Black, Scarface, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Serenity, Shaun of the Dead and Van Helsing.

We should add that Universal has also set An American Girl: Saige Paints the Sky for release on Blu-ray Combo and DVD on 7/2.

Finally, here’s something that’s going to bug some of you guys:  Retail sources are telling us that Disney is getting ready to announce Oz: The Great and Powerful in four SKUs – a single-disc Blu-ray 3D, a single disc Blu-ray, a 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo and a single-disc DVD, all with Digital Copy.  Yes, you read that right.  They’re NOT announcing a combo with BOTH Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D in the same package.  Yet they’re STILL charging $44.99 for the Blu-ray 3D.  So same price, less value.  DUMB, DUMB, DUMB… and sure to piss off a lot of fans who might be interested in 3D but also want the 2D copy.

I’m sensing a growing trend happening in the home video industry… and it’s not a good one.  More and more, it seems like the people who make these release decisions at the major Hollywood studios – about which titles and features to release on Blu-ray – are people straight out of business or marketing school who are concerned only with the bottom line and have zero connection to the product, no love of film, no experience with home video/home theater enthusiasts and what they want (and are eager to buy if only the studios would listen to them)… and absolutely no interest in taking the time to find out.  By releasing fewer and fewer catalog titles on Blu-ray, by actively turning down ideas for special edition releases and content (a complaint I’ve heard repeatedly in recent months from special edition producers), and by pushing the industry more and more towards downloads… these people are actively (and unwittingly) bringing about the demise of home video as we know it.  They’re abandoning collectors and film enthusiasts, shrinking the home video market, and essentially putting themselves out of a job.  All at a time when the folks at Warner Archive and some of the smaller indie studios (think Shout! Factory, Criterion, Olive Films, Twilight Time, etc) know that the way to move physical product – that’s discs to you and me – is to cater to enthusiasts by finding the right titles, making them special in a cost effective way and aggressively targeting the collector and enthusiast audience online.  Listen up Hollywood:  There’s still a huge audience of people out there who WANT to buy films on Blu-ray!  They have money ready to spend, but you have to LISTEN TO THEM!  You have to give them the product they want, with real value, at a price that isn’t insulting.

Ugh.  I have a feeling this column is going to resume an old tradition of regular industry rants in the near future…

Anyway, we’ll leave you today with a look at the cover art for three of Sony’s “4K-Mastered” BDs…

Ghostbusters (Mastered in 4K BD)    Glory (Mastered in 4K BD)    Taxi Driver (Mastered in 4K BD)

Stay tuned.

- Bill Hunt

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