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One Day, Two Rants (or… They Can Take My Discs When They Pry Them from My Cold Dead Hands!)

May 01, 2013 - 3:08 pm   |   By 

That’s right.  Two Rants… and for the price of one.  (Free!)

So here’s Rant #1: Disney has just issued their official press release for Oz: The Great and Powerful.  We’ve now confirmed that there are set to be FOUR physical product SKUs: Blu-ray/DVD Combo with Digital Copy (SRP $44.99), Blu-ray with Digital Copy (SRP $39.99), DVD with Digital Copy (SRP $29.99)… and Blu-ray 3D with Digital Copy (SRP $44.99).  And it does appear that the Blu-ray-3D package contains no 2D Blu-ray Disc.  At a $44.99 price point.  That’s insane.  Now, if you have a Blu-ray 3D player, you CAN apparently choose to watch only 2D (the player simply shows you the picture information intended for only one eye), but we believe this only works on 3D-ready players.  Even if you’re a Blu-ray 3D fan – and I know there are a surprising number of you guys out there because I hear from you – who in the world would want to spend $44.99 to only get a Blu-ray 3D-compatible version?  What if you want to watch the film in another room in the house that doesn’t have 3D?  What kind of value does Disney think they’re giving the Blu-ray consumer?  Hell, a Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray Combo with no DVD would have been a smarter option for most Blu-ray fans.  Judging by the reaction we’re already hearing from readers via e-mail and online, this move is about as popular with BD consumers as a lead balloon.

Anyway, for those interested the Oz BDs will come with The Magic of Oz The Great and Powerful Second Screen Experience, 9 behind-the-scenes featurettes (The Enchanting Characters and Creatures of Oz, The Sounds of Magical Oz, Sleight of Hand: Zach Braff Puppet Theater, My Journey in Oz by James Franco, Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions, China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief, Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz, Mila’s Metamorphosis and Walt Disney and the Road to Oz), along with bloopers and a music video by Mariah Carey.

Meanwhile, let’s get this out of the way before I start Rant #2.  Here’s more release news for today…

Lionsgate has announced a few titles for their July slate, including Legends of the Old West and Why We Laugh: Funny Women on DVD on 7/2, Angelina Ballerina: Mousical Medleys and Barney: Imagine with Barney on DVD only and Spring Breakers on BD and DVD on 7/9, and How The States Got Their Shapes: Season 2 and the Robotech: 2-Movie Collection (The Shadow Chronicles and the all-new Love Live Alive) on DVD only on 7/23.

Warner has announced Being Human: Season 5 (BBC) for release on Blu-ray and DVD on 8/20, as well as the animated Taz-Mania: Who Let The Taz Out – Season One, Part Two on DVD only on 8/6, and a pair of additional animated DVD titles on 7/23 including Duck Dodgers: Deep Space Duck – Season Two and Super Friends: A Dangerous Fate – Season 5.

Universal and Syfy have set Warehouse 13: Season Four for release on DVD only on 7/9.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has set Stoker for release on Blu-ray/DVD Combo on 6/18.  Extras include 4 featurettes (An Exclusive Look: A Filmmakers Journey, Mysterious Characters, Designing the Look and Creating the Music), deleted scenes, image galleries, footage of Emily Wells’ red carpet performance of the song Becomes the Color at the film’s premiere and a download version of the song.

RLJ Entertainment/Image have set the crime-actioner Tomorrow You’re Gone for Blu-ray and DVD release on 5/14.

Shout! Factory is releasing The Aquabats! Super Show! Season One! on DVD only on 5/21.

And finally, Entertainment One has set the “live-action dog tale” The Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowtown for DVD only release on 5/21.

So there.

Okay, finally we come to Rant #2... some concerns about Hollywood’s “digital streaming” future.  Anyone remember DIVX?  The pay per view disc format that thankfully came and went in the early days of DVD?  Well, if and when physical media finally goes away – say over the next decade or two – the Hollywood studios’ whole motivation behind DIVX will finally be realized.  Consumers will have no option or ability to own or copy films or TV shows.  In fact, the whole concept of “ownership” will disappear as it currently exists.  Your access to movie and TV content will be completely controlled by the studios.  You’ll have pay to access content – either per title or as a monthly subscription – and if one of the studios wants to take away that access, they can do it.  Just like that.  If a studio decides all those old Westerns aren’t popular anymore and they’re just taking up valuable server space “in the cloud”, they can just pull them down and you can’t watch them anymore.  And if you’d like to watch the widest variety of titles from all the different studios, you’re probably going to have to subscribe to more than one – maybe even several – different streaming services.  Each studio could have their own.  That’s about as consumer unfriendly as it gets.

Today, of course, if you want pretty much any film or TV show that’s currently (or formerly) available on a physical disc, you can just one-stop shop on Amazon (or eBay) and the disc is at your house in a few mouse clicks plus a couple of days.  On the music side of things, at least the all-digital music industry is more friendly.  I currently have iTunes installed on my computer’s hard drive filled with thousands of songs in high-quality that I’ve ripped from legally purchased CDs and downloads.  The files exist on my hard drive, and they’re backed up on a second drive and on my iPod.  I control them.  I can listen to them whenever I want.  The record companies can’t take them away from me.  (Film and TV video files downloaded from iTunes are a different issue, as they have DRM.)  But Hollywood doesn’t want to work like that in the future.  Are you an UltraViolet user?  Cool, right?  Your movies are stored in the cloud.  Sure, you can access them from any device you want via the cloud, but the movies aren’t on your hard drive.  You have no real control over them whatsoever.  Whatever you do, be sure to keep those Blu-ray and DVD versions!  Because if you sell the discs, thinking that all you’ll ever need in the future is the UV version online, sooner or later you’re going to lose access to those films.  You’re going to get screwed.

The bottom line is this: In the all-digital future, Hollywood needs to revise their concept of ownership to be more consumer friendly.  Hollywood needs to let you own and keep legal digital movie and TV files on your own drives – files they can’t remotely deactivate or deny you access to by pulling them off the cloud.  But trust me, they don’t want to do that and they’re going to fight doing it tooth and nail.  Hollywood is, right now, building a digital future in which your control over your media that you’ve purchased legally is an illusion.  Now, some of you younger readers are probably thinking, “Yeah, so what?  The cloud is cool!  Discs are for dinosaurs, man!”  Well… if you’re a movie fan, especially someone who has loved building and enjoying a large library collection of your favorite films and TV shows on disc – discs that you can watch whenever and wherever you want – it’s something you’d be smart to think long and hard about.

[Editor’s Note: This rant was originally inspired by a story on ars technica that Netflix had lost more than 1,700 Warner catalog titles, supposedly pulled by the studio to be hosted instead on their Warner Archive Instant service.  However, our sources at Warner Archive tell us:  “The story [on ars technica] currently relating Warner Archive Instant to Netflix title availability is inaccurate. Warner Archive Instant is not involved in Netflix’s business decisions and none of the titles that were pulled from Netflix yesterday are Warner Bros. owned. Further, Warner Archive Instant content is drawn solely from the Warner Bros Entertainment library and we are not streaming Universal, or MGM/ United Artists owned content on this site.”  Given this, I’ve removed the reference to the actual story on ars accordingly, which honestly my rant really wasn’t about anyway.  In any case, my concerns (and comments) about Hollywood’s all-digital future remain every bit as valid and legitimate.]

We’ll be back tomorrow with a great new View from the Cheap Seats column by our own Bud Elder, so be sure to check back in for that in the morning.

Stay tuned…

- Bill Hunt

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