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Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Jun 20, 2012.
Yes, I always reformat Them! and Tarantula when I watch them, and they play very nicely.
I think what we're all forgetting here is that the studios in totem, with very few exceptions, have very little interest in preserving their lesser known titles for the simple fact that they remain 'lesser known' through an absence of exposure over the years. It's chicken and egg really. The studio says there's no market for them because they haven't been marketed properly over the years and thus few know anything about them, even that they might exist at all.
I think the philosophy at Fox in particular has been skewed by a number of mitigating factors; first, the downturn in the economy that has really impacted the bottom line for catalogue titles - especially ones like Apartment for Peggy or Suez, great movies that just don't have a following. Fox ought to have put their best foot forward on this MOD program but alas they took the quick and dirty route; unwilling or unable to scour their own archives for whatever surviving elements currently exist. Old video masters don't cut it in today's market but failure to purchase what's being pumped out will only serve to reaffirm for the powers that be that there is NO afterlife for these movies.
The philosophy ought to be rethought, however, particularly since the studio's reputation has been built upon these great and glorious golden oldies. Personal opinion, of course, but nothing that ANY of the studios have put out in the last 20 years comes near to rivaling many of the titles featured in this MOD program in either performance or artistry, and certainly very few - if any - of the movies Fox has committed to celluloid since the year 2000 will be celebrating a 50th or 70th anniversary reissue in the future. Movies used to be an art as well as a business. Now they're mostly about clever marketing and that proverbial flash in the pan to rake in the millions on an opening weekend or two. That sort of marketing breeds nothing better than disposable entertainments - filler for the masses that leaves no indelible impression on the collective cultural consciousness of a generation.
There is a reason we are still talking about these classics with reverence and it has nothing - or at the very least - VERY little to do with our warm, fuzzy feeling for nostalgia and that all but forgotten ghost flower frequently referenced as 'golden Hollywood'. No, the movies on Fox's current MOD program are much beloved because they had - and continue to have - staying power. Once seen their images are burned into our minds. We relive the memory as part of our own and that says quite a lot about the integrity of the product itself.
I am not a fan of MOD DVD because in the long run it cheats the collector of seeing these great movies in a manner befitting their innate value as collected works of art. Warner's MOD program, as example, has simply become a dumping ground for a litany of home grown and MGM product that the studio feels will never have a shelf life beyond this disposable disc format. Fox has taken an even more laissez faire approach by cutting corners with regards to proper OAR and video mastering.
What's happening is rather scary, because one day not so very far off we will have lost the ability to go back to original masters (if, in fact any currently exist) or even be able to revisit second and third generation prints with any degree of salvaging what's left on the negative for future generations. Whole portions of Hollywood's past are in a perilous state of decay as restoration experts like Robert Harris can attest to. One day they simply will not exist at all and we will be stuck with lackluster, digitally combed, badly faded and out of sync copies of these movies as the only surviving points of reference. That's disheartening.
I have long been of the opinion that the studios en masse, in conjunction with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Library of Congress, The AFI and the Film Foundation need to establish a collective fund for the preservation and restoration of EVERY home grown Hollywood motion picture currently still in existence in one form or another. At present every studio has this isolationist philosophy that they can do it on their own; keeping their movies under lock and key for fear that someone else will scoop them first and steal away their profit margin.
What this means is that vast libraries remain buried in vaults in a salt mine somewhere without - or with extremely little - hope of ever seeing the light of day. No, what the studios need to do is set aside their differences and join hands with the aforementioned major contributors and come up with a collective plan of action that includes all of the allocated moneys, time and effort going into one gigantic pot. At present none of these organizations works alongside the other. That needs to end and a meeting of the minds, as well as the creative brain trusts needs to take place to make this happen! NOW!
Then the studios need to decide on how best to market their films to today's audience in a way that will do justice to their histories and preserve them for hundreds of years yet to come. Restoration takes time and money - yes. But it's about time everyone got on board with the concept that movie art IS art - period. If we were talking about the Mona Lisa or the Last Supper and someone said, "well, it's just to expensive to fix...so let's just chuck the canvass in a backroom somewhere or repaint the wall in the chapel with a new painting"...art historians everywhere would be outraged and the public outcry would shatter the notion that we should simply throw out the old to make way for the new. Curiously, this same philosophy is not being applied to movie art. Somehow, it has become quite acceptable to ignore classics moldering with the past as mere relics to be dumped on the market in MOD programs without any care or thought for the original intent of the film makers.
Time and money are commodities that NEED to be spent to get movies looking as they did when we first saw them - period. Feasibility is always the trump card. Studios will say, "yes, that's a very nice 'pie in the sky notion' but it doesn't work in the real 'reel' world." My argument is as follows: there's always a way to make it work! I've given my way herein.
How would I do it. First, set up a meeting between all of the majors - each bringing to light their concerns with samples of their deteriorating catalogue on hand. At this meeting would be a plethora of restoration experts, plus a round up of film lovers like Spielberg and Scorsese, and investors with money to spend (the Bill Gates, The Trumps, the Warren Buffets...you get the picture). I would make the pitch that in neglecting movie art we are depriving our national heritage of a great and ongoing history and promote the cause of restoration as not merely something we should do because it is the right thing, but market it as a necessity for the future of art appreciation.
Then I would ask the various organizations to step up to the plate (the AFI, Film Foundation, et al) and act as financiers for the collective pool of managing one mass account dedicated to the restoration of these movies with an ongoing investment from the backers. I would also establish a film lover's pool - a contributor's market for people who are not millionaires but would agree that movies are an art and would like to help by sending in their contributions via a telethon of sorts. I would encourage networks to get behind the movement; Fox Movie, TCM, AMC etc. Do it the way PBS does their fund raising, offering call-in contributors memorabilia and other collectibles for their generous donations.
There's a lot more to this discussion that ought to be discussed, intelligently. I've used the Fox forum as my pulpit simply to prove two points: (1) that the current MOD program is quite insufficient and (2) that there is a better way to assure that these movies will be seen, respected, loved and treasured for many years to come. Someone at Fox said it takes roughly $10,000 to do new video masters. I think we can all agree that with the list of powerful studios, organizations and game plan I have put forth herein, we could easily raise at least $10 million for starters dedicated to the cause of salvaging America's national movie heritage, and this by tomorrow afternoon if everyone was on board. So, don't tell me it's too expensive to do what needs to be done! It can be done. It must be done. There. I've said my peace.
Well said Nick.
I have received four Fox MODs today. Here are my views on them:
THE FARMER TAKES A WIFE - Excellent transfer. Great image. Could pass for a "restoration" of the elements of this title.
HIGH SCHOOL- Ok but contrasts issues present themselves. Perhaps a badly badly timed print from the lab.
THE ROCKET MAN- Excellent transfer. Reportedly shot to be shown at 1.66:1, but this does look like an 'Open Matte' version to me.
THE MOON IS DOWN- Quite good. The sound has a little noise in it but nothing that overly concerns me.I doubt that it woud have taken much effort to rerecord it and "clean it up" but I think ANY trouble is too much trouble for the Fox MOD powers-that-be.
That is a fantastic article. I certainly learned a lot from it.
MOD is not about preserving our film heritage. MOD is all about money, maximizing the amount of money that can be gotten from an individual consumer. MOD programs are simply an attempt by producers to by-pass distributors. Distributors lower the price on retail DVDs. By taking over distribution by themselves, producers can set their own price. However, as the MOD programs soon found out, distributing your own product isn't easy. They've had to reach agreements with third-party distributors to move their product, just as with retail DVDs. What's different about these new agreements is that they obviously prohibit the MODs from falling below a certain price. It's all price-fixing, getting the highest price they can. Film lovers can take it or leave it. It's not about quality or anything like that. I guess we should be thankful that there are a few MOD programs that care a little about quality, Warner and Sony. The rest treat MOD as an afterthought, a way for them to get a few dollars in spite of putting even less in.
So I guess Warner Archive does not have those four or five sales per month that sometimes gets the cost of an MOD below $10.00? When MGM had their MOD program, they also went back and fixed some of their problems and tried to do it right. Universal also did a fairly good job. Amazon routinely lowered prices on both the MGM and Universal titles. Fox is the one does not care and I don't think it's fair to degrade the whole MOD program just because one company.
For somebody that complains about these MOD programs, you appear to buy plenty of their releases.
I think jdee's comments were pretty astute. I think Fox are handling their MODs poorly in general but I have bought some that have been worth getting. I certainly research any releases of CinemaScope titles before buying them to be sure it is a Wide Screen version, be it anamorphic or Letterbox.
Warners are showing how it should be done. Let's hope Fox learns from them and "gets their act together" before some collectors give up on them altogether.
There really isn't anything astute about Fox's MOD program. It's horrible and I refuse to buy any of their MOD offerings until they improve them. We've been complaining about this MOD program for a year now. What other people do with their monies is their personal business, but I'm boycotting Fox's MOD program until I see concrete evidence that they've made the necessary improvements to get it on the level of WA.
Read the following thread link.
MOD programs are about creating price floors on DVDs. Sure Warner has sales, but there is a certain price they would never go below, $9.00. If they'd have given these discs over to regular distribution, distributors would have eventually lowered the price below that as they did with retail DVDs. By allowing companies to distribute for themselves, MOD programs guarantee that severe price cutting will never happen. That's my point. It's not a criticism, it's economics. That's why MOD programs are so enticing.
I agree that the Fox MOD program is the worst of the worse. The price, the quality, the apathy; it's pathetic and hard to take seriously.
MOD programs are about selling DVDs that traditional retailers do not want to sell any longer with the needed floor space to do so. You want to blame the studios for being greedy, go ahead, but the reality of the situation is that every retailer has decreased their floor space for software sales due to the simple fact that the American public has reduced their spending on such items. I can't believe some of us continue to place blame on the studios while refusing to acknowledge that the marketing landscape has changed for DVD producers due to a number of reasons which started when the market became saturated with software releases, DVD sales stagnated and slowed, the economy went into the dumpster and new technology has come along in which people don't have to buy physical software to enjoy films and TV at home. It's just the way it is and people need to accept it that there is no going back to 2000 again. The studios don't have the means to sell their software product like they did ten years ago as there is no support in the retailer segment to allow that as many store chains are on life support while others have already closed in the last ten years.
One last thing, of course, the studios want to maximize profits by improving their profit margin on units sold. They're like any other company that is in business to make money. However, that single business charge isn't the only reason why MOD programs have become popular with the studios. We need to look at the industry at large and see that producing and selling DVDs like they did years ago isn't going to be supported by the marketing segment of today. Mass producing 200K units of 1950s westerns onto DVDs isn't going to sell enough of those units to support the expense of producing those DVD titles.
If it wasn't for those nefarious MOD programs, we'd be having store-wide promotions of Wheeler and Woolsey DVD box sets, with full-size standups, tee shirts and everything all over our local Circuit Citys, Borders, Sam Goodys, Virgin Megastores, Wherehouses. Darn.
Damn straight, Nick! Preservation for the sake of art should be paramount (no pun intended)! Studio greed is endangering our film heritage. If they somehow have preservation efforts underway that we don't know about, then they should be far more transparent with the information.
You have only addressed the MOD programs in your post and completely missed the main point of Nick's post. MOD programs or no MOD programs, the studios MUST put forth collective efforts to preserve their library. What they're doing with their current attitudes isn't enough. By the way, if studios did farm out restoration ops to organizations like MoMA, UCLA, LoC, and others, that doesn't mean that they couldn't still make money off of the titles restored by those parties outside the studio.
I wasn't replying to Nick's post!
I'm moving slow today but this is really funny.
Don't forget those Suncoast stores in the malls across America. Just about all the brick & mortar retailers I used to buy many of my video purchases are gone now except BB, who's future is questionable at best. Wal Mart is still here, but with less competition today than yesteryear.The retail distribution has really shrunk as far as brick & mortar options are concern. Even Amazon is doing their Wal Mart act on their Internet competition by overwhelming other businesses.It's such a different world retailer-wise.
f.y.e stores seem to be the only B&M stores left in malls. But are on the high side for cost.
Right. In my world there's B&N (may it somehow thrive), but with a 45-minute-and-longer drive for the decent stores; Best Buy (what's left of the media section); and the occasional f.y.e. -- but the couple of really good ones in my neck of the woods got closed, coinciding with the upcoming renewal date of my membership, so I said the hell with that.
I have Walmart and Target, but can't consider either of these a viable media source. I might pick up a new release there once a year or so. I love brick and mortar more than I can say, but except for the better B&N stores, Amazon is still winning this round.
Yeah, when I lived in Ridgeland CT it was fun to go to Tower in Stanford on Tuesdays. Ran into Gene Wilder the week I was trying to find the Silver Streak DVD. And was not the only celebrity I would run across there. Ah great B&M memories.
There is something incredibly exciting about browsing an actual DVD rack or shelf and finding that special jewel you may not have discovered otherwise... But having said that, it's also a thrill when you receive a great DVD or Blu in the mail.