Barrie Maxwell has a new Classic Coming Attractions piece up at The Digital Bits (thanks to Laurafor the heads-up) and begins his article with a nice little observation on the state of classic movies on DVD:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… If you’re a classic enthusiast, it will depend on your viewpoint on Manufactured-On-Demand (MOD) discs whether you feel we’re in the former or the latter.
It’s pretty clear now that MOD is the way of the future when it comes to most classic titles not yet released on DVD. Despite all its problems the Warner Archive seems to be a success and MGM followed suit late last year with Universal jumping on the bandwagon this month. Can Fox, Paramount, and Sony be far behind? Pressed discs of classic films are not going to disappear, but the number of new titles is likely to continue to decline, at least where most of the major studios are concerned. The pluses and minuses of the MOD model have been debated ad nauseum. The main positive, and it is a major one, is the increasing availability of literally hundreds of titles that may not have been otherwise available for a long time or perhaps never. Excessive cost, quality of transfers, and questionable durability are the main negatives. The answer to the former two issues lies within the individual consumer/collector; if one is prepared to pay excessive prices and accept mediocre transfers in some cases, that’s what one will continue to get. It’s simple supply and demand. As for disc durability, only time can answer questions about that.
The entire essay is certainly worth the time investment, and while I wish some of the factors he writes about weren’t true, that seems to be the direction classic films is moving toward. (The MOD controversy is one that we’ve explored here in the past at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.) This should dovetail nicely (and if it doesn’t I’ll make certain it does) into the second bit of information that I need to pass along; one of the many TDOY correspondents (who asked me not to mention their name, for fear of lawyer-like activity) reports that many of the Warner Archive DVDs are now available for sale in the Critic’s Choice Video catalog that may be taking up space in your mailbox right now as I type. However, Critic’s Choice neglects to inform customers that the content of the Archives are not on, as Barrie calls them, “pressed discs” and that they don’t feature much in the way of supplements or extras. I’m not certain if withholding this info is going to lead to legal-like proceedings, but if I were a customer without any sort of Internet savvy about MODs I’d be a bit cheesed off.
Barrie brings up a point in his piece that I thought particularly thought-provoking:
One wonders who makes decisions at Universal on what titles get DVD-R treatment vs. pressed disc? The incredible Ruggles of Red Gap goes to DVD-R, yet the static Alice in Wonderland gets a proper pressed disc release (and I don’t care that there’s a tie-in to Tim Burton’s new theatrical Alice in Wonderland film)?
I’d kind of like to hear an explanation on that one myself.