Classic Movies · Movies · Stuff You Should Know

I was going to publish this as a comment, but it sort of got away from me…

dvds

Rockfish (love that Gandolf Fitch reference, by the way):

Thanks so much for taking the time out to offer a dissenting opinion on this issue. You might also want to read a post by my very good friend ThadK at his blog that also lines up with your take on the Archives as well. (At first I kind of dismissed Thad’s thoughts because, befitting his status as the world’s youngest curmudgeon, he approaches practically every issue in that manner. Your contribution indicates that my previous conjecture just isn’t so.)

I think where you and I disagree on this issue mainly lies in how rosy the two of us consider the future of classic movies on DVD. I have a more pessimistic outlook; when you can get the studios to release the older stuff (and jazz it up with a few extras) it’s pretty sweet—but occurrences like these are few and far between. Universal seems mostly content to re-release their classic titles in collections that aren’t all that different from the first time you bought them. Sony’s older film releases are erratic and spotty (though steps are being made in the direction of beefing up the number of releases, thanks to Mike Schlesinger, the rare classic movie fan lucky enough to work in a capacity to dictate releases) and Paramount has pretty much given up on older titles, preferring to let Criterion do the heavy work. (The same goes, to a certain extent, with 20th Century-Fox as well.) Warner Bros. is the only one I know of who consistently makes an effort to unveil classic material (again, through the Schlesinger-like efforts of George Feltenstein, another classics buff)—so if Warners is responsible for the innovation that is the Archives…what does that tell us about the future plans of its competitors to continue hawking older films on DVD?

The painful truth of the matter is that the classic films market is a niche market at best—you’ve got too many individuals among the studio higher-ups who not only don’t give a rat’s ass, most of them haven’t seen any of the films considered to be “classics.” It’s what I often refer to as the Entertainment Weakly syndrome—the point of reference for many movie lovers (or those who claim to be) rarely stretches anywhere preceding the 1970s. There are a good many smaller companies that do appreciate and keep in mind the classic film buff (VCI is a very good example) but as this economy continues to further tank and discretionary dollars spent on entertainment start to shrink, the studios are going to hew to the bottom line and the list of classic releases will get smaller as a result. That’s what businesses do. I think the steps taken by Warner to find an alternate way to offer classic films to fans are commendable…even though I do agree with many of the detractors that the tariff they are asking is a bit pricey. If I were someone prepared to grab goodies like the proverbial individual “trapped-in-a-candy-store”, this would be a major issue of concern…but since I’m sort of choosy about what kinds of classic movies I like (and TCM allows me to record much of what I’d like to have) it’s not particularly pressing—I’m capable of deciding what I absolutely must have and what I’m more than willing to wait for.

A classic film collector once had an interesting post on the bulletin boards at the classic movie website In the Balcony. He stated—and as much as I hate to admit it, he’s right—that today’s fans have become a bit spoiled:

…I was a serious film collector for over 20 years … hundreds of films and about 1000 reels. It was a very expensive and time-consuming hobby. Back in the day I would travel to conventions and search the Big Reel for films I wanted, always looking for a better print. I collected serials, B mysteries and westerns. I took me five years to find and buy decent chapters of Flash Gordon. I paid serious money to Nostalgia Merchant for couple of complete serials. Back then the average B movie was $150 and serial chapters were about $35. Of course that was in the 1970’s and 1980’s before the Internet. In 2008 dollars we are talking “crazy” money.

(snip)

Sometimes this group seems to act like $25.00 is a king’s ransom. Basically I buy what I like and sometimes I have to swallow hard.

When you put it in the big picture—shelling out the kind of money back in the 70s/80s for what you can get for $20 bucks or less today—I don’t think what Warner is asking for films that were most assuredly never going to see the light of day in the first place is all that big a deal. Again, if I save myself a few bucks taping it off TCM everything is copacetic. If it’s something I desperately want and can’t obtain it through any other avenues, it’s ultimately my decision as to whether I’m going to pony up the gitas or not.

Many apologies if this came off sounding like a lecture. Rest assured, you have a good many valid arguments, and I greatly appreciate the time you took to write them down.

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