I was on the phone with my sister when I walked into an HMV, curious about what new releases were displayed under New Releases. “Ooooooooh,” I breathed into the receiver, “there’s a Criterion version of Ran now. But it’s fifty bucks. I really shouldn’t buy it.”
After the conversation finished, I bought it.
The fortunate part of the story is that on several prior occassions I had opted to not purchase this great film because I didn’t know which version to buy. Before the Criterion release, there were two different DVDs of the same film. Which was the “better choice” was never clear, even if they both contained the same movie. So when presented with the option, I went with safer purchases of other DVDs or CDs.
Criterion quality trumps that.
Nonetheless, I started to think about that force that kept me from buying Ran and is currently keeping me from acquiring Kill Bill. That force is the expectation that there will eventually be a more concise, complete, “final” edition one day. This is an assumption created by the studios with their incessant milking of movies with Special Editions, Collector’s Editions, Director Cut versions and the Limited Editions with the fancy boxes and useless junk.
The studios are to blame for this. In their drive to sell more copies of the same thing, they are inadvertently losing sales because nobody wants to buy the same movie twice and because nobody wants to buy an inferior product unless the savings are substantial. With these movie editions, they rarely are.
When you know that a better product is on the horizon, you wait for it. Even before the first volume of Kill Bill was released, around the time we learned that the single movie was being split into two, I knew that eventually there would be a double pack. Or a Special Edition with both movies together as one. Something more concise than a seperate release for each individual movie. I bitched about it back then too (even if I did go and see it), but it wasn’t baseless. Film Rotation, in April of 2004, wrote about the “Kill Bill scam”. There they quote:
Boston Globe pop critic Renée Graham has castigated film studios for their increasing tendency to release multiple DVD versions of hit films. Graham points out that Miramax is currently planning to release six different DVD releases of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, noting that Miramax COO Rick Sands recently told the New York Times: “Vol. 1 goes out, Vol. 2 goes out, then Vol. 1 Special Edition, Vol. 2 Special Edition, the two-pack, then the Tarantino collection as a boxed set for Christmas. … It’s called multiple bites at the apple.” Graham predicts that the public will soon wise up to the fact that it’s being exploited, observing: “Studio suits would do well to remember the hard lessons learned by the record industry. As CD prices inexplicably increased year after year, some fans turned to peer-to-peer downloading services … for their music fix. The music industry has been crying foul ever since and suing the very people it wants to purchase its product.”
Two years have passed and what do we have to show for it? Nothing. None of those other editions exist. There is no concise set. There is no double-pack. There are just two movies (now starting to hit the bargain bins) with few features and the still lingering shadow of a pending release. I still don’t own a copy of Kill Bill because of it.
So thank you movie studios for saving my money by making me reconsider my movie purchases everytime I go for that not-so-special, not-so-limited, not-so-complete edition DVD. You may now blame the internet for your lost sales.