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“In the lands of Middle-Earth, legend tells of an $800 Blu-ray shelf...”

August 18, 2016 - 2:46 pm   |   by

So um... yeah. Since yesterday morning, when the SRP and final product images first went up on Amazon – and even before we posted our column on the subject yesterday afternoon – we started getting e-mails and private messages from diehard Rings fans asking: “Is Warner’s Middle Earth: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set really $799.99?!”

I understand the feeling behind that question, believe me, because I feel it too. When I first saw that $799 price listed, I thought surely it was an error. Especially when you consider that the theatrical set was listed at $68.99, and when that price info quickly disappeared.

I figured there was absolutely no way Warner would charge $800 for a Blu-ray release of these films that contained no new disc-based content whatsoever. Had to be a mistake. [Read on here…]

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Which was why I was so surprised to see it appear again last night... and stick: $799.99. And yes, I’ve now confirmed it with the studio. That is the price. Not including sales tax, mind you.

For a SHELF.

Oh my GOD.

Middle Earth: Ultimate Collector’s Edition

Now, you might be saying: “But Bill... look at it! It’s not just a shelf! You get all those discs! 30 of them. Plus you get that swag – an art book, and cards, the packaging.” True. What you do get amounts to the Blu-ray 2D versions of all the Extended Edition films, plus digital copies of both the Theatrical and Extended Editions, plus the bonus discs from all of the Extended Editions and the bonus discs from the Theatrical Editions too. Plus the packaging and swag.

Does this set also come personally delivered to your door by Benedict Cumberbatch wearing a dragon suit? Because at that price it probably should.

(Mad props to my friend Amy Wagner, of the delightful Stuart Ng Books, whose joke that is. It really made me laugh yesterday over all this. And boy, I needed a good laugh.)

So... here’s Problem #1: The people who are going to most want this set for that packaging are the diehard fans of Jackson’s films. And you can bet that they probably already own most – if not all – of those discs. So the people who most want that set are people who already have all the content – and they’re being asked to pay $800 for new packaging and swag alone.

Here’s Problem #2: Those same fans have been promised for years by the filmmakers that when the 6-film saga was finally complete, there would be a truly ultimate release of all the films with new documentary content, deleted scenes, outtakes, and all the as-yet-untold stories. In other words, new bonus content.

Here’s Problem #3: Peter Jackson and company wanted to make that content, proposed doing so, and the studio passed. (Yes, I’m confident that’s true and we have it from multiple sources now.) It sure ain’t here in this set.

Here’s Problem #4: The content you do get in the set isn’t even truly “ultimate,” because again you don’t get the Theatrical versions of these films on disc, and you don’t get the Blu-ray 3D versions of the Hobbit films.

Now, I don’t know who at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment made these decisions, but I’d be willing to bet that precious few of them have even seen all of the Extended Editions of these films, much less watched all of these extras. They are not truly fans of these films. And that’s a problem. Because this decision is seriously out of touch with what those fans would like to see and be willing to pay for. No one who is actually a fan of these films would ever make so wrong-headed a decision about a release like this.

It’s really deeply insulting to diehard fans. As in kick in the balls, poke in the eye, having salt tossed in your face, and then getting crapped on for good measure insulting.

Why, you might ask? Well... let me walk you through it, so there’s no confusion…

So, let’s say you’ve been a fan of Peter Jackson’s cinematic journey into J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth from the very beginning. That means you’ve probably already purchased:

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Theatrical Edition on DVD when it was first released back in early 2002 for $19.99.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Extended Edition on DVD when it was first released back in late 2002 for $39.99.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Limited Edition on DVD (including both the theatrical and extended editions plus new extras) when it was released back in 2006 for $29.99 (because it had all-new bonus content).

So that’s a possible outlay of $90 per film, times three films (or $270) just for The Lord of the Rings films on DVD.

Then there was The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Theatrical Edition on Blu-ray when it was released back in 2010 for $99.98.

And The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Extended Edition on Blu-ray when it was released back in 2011 for $119.98.

So now you’re up to $490 spent for just the Rings films over the years, if you’ve been a loyal diehard fan and collected all the available versions because you want all the content and extras in the best possible quality.

Then there was each of the Hobbit films on Theatrical DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D (for $28.98, $44.95, and $44.95 each), and the DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D Extended films (for $34.99. $35.99 and $54.98), as well as The Hobbit Trilogy: Extended Edition on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D (for $78.92, $99.98, and $154.98). Now, all that happened post Blu-ray, so you probably didn’t buy it on both formats. But some of you probably did bite on the individual film releases and the various retail-exclusive packages with statuettes and swag that the studios love to offer these days.

But let’s take a guess: Go ahead and add about another $50 per film. That’ll bring you up to about $650 spent to buy these films on disc by diehard fans over the years. Keep in mind, that doesn’t include theatrical tickets, books, toys, swag, collectibles and whatever else you may have purchased.

And now, Warner is asking you to spend another $800 to re-buy most of those exact same discs just to get the nice new packaging and swag, which every diehard fan would certainly love to have.

That’s why this is insulting.

But you might be asking: “But this release isn’t targeted at the diehard fans! It’s meant for people who haven’t purchased any of the films on disc yet!” First of all, are you nuts? Second of all, who would those people be exactly that are in the market for an $800 Blu-ray set but aren’t diehard fans?

Now sure… I’ll allow that there’s a chance that Elon Musk hasn’t picked up a copy of these films on Blu-ray yet, because he’s been a little busy building rockets to go to Mars and all. But I have to believe that Elon Musk would be smarter than to pay $800 for these discs, a book, and a shelf. Because A: Rockets and Mars and all. And because B: You can buy all these discs (plus better books and more) for much cheaper individually!

This is true: I did a little window-shopping research and ran the numbers last night. For $799.99, I could – right now on Amazon – buy...

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Theatrical Edition BD set ($21.75)

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Extended Edition BD set ($48.99)

The Hobbit Trilogy – Theatrical Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo set ($97.89)

The Hobbit Trilogy – Extended Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo set ($106.98)

(And if you add up all those movie and extras discs, that comes to 48 discs of content – which is truly complete – as opposed to this set’s 30.) Plus...

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy 3-CD Soundtrack Collection ($30)

The Hobbit Special Edition soundtrack CDs ($20 each x 3 films = $60)

The “Art of The Lord of the Rings” hardcover books for each film ($44 each x 3 = $132)

The “Art & Design of The Hobbit” hardcover books for each film ($30 each x 3 = $90)

If you’re following along at home (or the office) that comes to a subtotal of $587.61.

That leaves me with $212.38...

... which is almost enough to buy a hand-crafted prop replica of The Hat of Gandalf The freaking Grey from the WETA Workshop too (for $219 – see this link, and yes that’s it pictured up above there on the left side of the page. It’s kind of badass).

And I’ll build my own damn shelf to hold it all.

Anyway…

I don’t think I really need to say much more about how I feel personally – as a diehard fan of Peter Jackson’s films – about all this. But I will say this from a professional perspective: This may very well be the most misguided release decision I’ve seen a major studio home video operation make in the 20 years I’ve been covering this industry as the editor of The Digital Bits. It really couldn’t be more out of touch with consumers, the fans, and especially the studio’s specific target market for this release.

I am kind of shocked by it, actually.

And I’m not going to lie: It’s also a little bit sad and depressing too, that the industry has come to things this.

Now… as to what the Middle Earth fans I’m hearing from today think about this... well, I don’t want to post exact quotes here, because it’s not pretty. But I think this clip (below) from John Oliver pretty much covers the overwhelming vibe I’m getting from their e-mails and private messages today...

Enough said.

FYI: This will be my first, last, and only comment on the above subject for the forseeable future, because it’s just too damn irritating and life is too short. So to all fans: I 100% feel your pain on this but please direct your frustration elsewhere.

One other note today and then I’m getting back to working on reviews: Shout! Factory and Scream have announced that they’re delaying the release of The Thing: Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release from the original street date of 9/20 to 10/11. The reason is that they’ve discovered a few minor audio errors in the release and want to correct them before the disc ships out to consumers. Rest assured that people who pre-ordered the discs are still going to get their discs before the new street date. Adjust your plans accordingly. Here’s a link their official update message about this on their Facebook page. Hats off to them, they’ve been totally cool about it.

Okay... back with more later or tomorrow. Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt (@BillHuntBits)

Middle Earth: Ultimate Collector’s Edition