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The Warner Problem: Not So Surprising


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#1 of 38 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted August 17 2001 - 09:23 AM

Now, while the entire Forum is still reeling and reverberating from the Warner announcements, is the time to reflect on something that, in my view, has been inevitable:

We constantly read how DVD is the fastest-rising consumer home-entertainment format in history. With each day and week, it increasingly becomes the "people's format." DVD is very much a mass medium.

Home theater, however, is not yet a hobby/advocation of the masses. As hard a notion as it is for us to swallow, most persons do not know what is meant by the term "original aspect ratio." But we know all too well that most persons hate the concept of letterboxing with a near-passion.

Small wonder, then, that one of the first studios to embrace DVD is also among the first to announce two major releases that will be available in pan-and-scan only. The studio we all love to hate is reacting and responding to its own market research. Warner has little incentive to cater any longer to what it views as a niche market. And that's what we are, folks: a niche market, a fraction, a drop in the bucket.

Expect more pan-and-scan-only announcements from Warner, and soon after, others.

With sadness, I predict the following: Widescreen/OAR presentations eventually will only be available in special-edition releases, and probably at much greater cost. The studios want to make money, not curry favor with a more-educated elite.

I don't like what I've said here, but I fear it's the truth. For once, I hope I'm wrong.

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#2 of 38 OFFLINE   Peter Kline

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Posted August 17 2001 - 09:25 AM

Jack, you're right I'm afraid. But it is too upsetting.
Go to your room! Posted Image

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#3 of 38 OFFLINE   Antonio_M

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Posted August 17 2001 - 09:34 AM

Pan and Scam and widescreen can fit on the same disc.

Also, forgetting about widescreen is really ignorant, considering that is the way movies from many directors are made.

Second, I have no problem if studios will embrace strongly pan and scan, because all I have to do is stop buying.

You also might say that what Martin Scorsece has done is a waste of his preeching time.

You can also say that Americans are so behind stuff. We don't appreciate or embrace the finer things in life.

Third, pan and scam costs more money to make than widescreen.

This is Warner we're talking about, a company in which the great Dreamworks left behind because of garbage. That is what they are, garbage. A freakin cardboard manufacturing company.

#4 of 38 OFFLINE   Rain

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Posted August 17 2001 - 09:47 AM

Here I go again, but I must respectfully disagree. Warner is being foolish, as other studios would be if they followed suit.

Yes, there are more Joe Six Packs than us, but they do not buy DVDs like we do. They have maybe 5-10 that they have acquired over the last year or so. I, for example, have about 170 which I have acquired in the last 9 months. Even if Joe Six Pack outnumbers us 50-1, long terms sales will still decrease if they veer away from OAR.

These decisions are short sighted. They are listening to the masses, not the DVD buyers. There is a huge difference.

Another thing to remember is that, while it is unlikely J6P will refuse to buy a title because it's widescreen (especially if it's only 1.85:1), we will refuse to buy non-OAR discs.

Then there is the point of titles. Why would anyone want to release, for example, The Lion in Winter in P&S for J6P. J6P doesn't know that movie from a hole in the ground and won't buy it anyway. We will, but not if it's P&S.

I'm confident that Warner will see their sales drop with these decisions.

Just wait a few more days and watch how MGM's The Silence of the Lambs widescreen DVD outsells the formatted version. Trust me, it'll happen. It was pretty obvious to me from the time that release was announced that MGM was using it to test the waters. Good choice of title, I must say, as it appeals equally to buffs and J6P. However, MGM will be very surprised I think by the result. Posted Image

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[Edited last by Rain on August 17, 2001 at 04:51 PM]
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#5 of 38 OFFLINE   Justin Lane

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Posted August 17 2001 - 09:53 AM

Jack you make some good points here, that I have thought would be coming all along myself. We truly are the niche market now for DVD, and it will only get worse for us as time goes on. I see people getting excited that they have 600 or even 10,000 signatures on a petition to Warner Brothers, but when you think of big releases that sell several hundred thousand copies or even close to a million or more, it makes you realize we are fighting a battle we cannot win.

The only thing we can hope for is that Studios such as Fox and Paramount stay true to their policies in place for the time being. The biggest enemy could ultimately end up being rental pricing though. If it comes to be, we are going to see more and more P&S titles prepared for the rental market, and if the title is not big, when it becomes available for general sale we could very well see studios get lazy and decide to just put back out the same P&S version for rental.

It seems like the hayday for OAR DVD lovers is slowly coming to an end. Could our only hope ultimately be that HD-DVD comes our way sooner than later so we will once again have a format that caters to us?

J

#6 of 38 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted August 17 2001 - 10:09 AM

Quote:
Could our only hope ultimately be that HD-DVD comes our way sooner than later so we will once again have a format that caters to us?

Unfortunately, that alone won't solve anything. Films can be cropped to fit a 16x9 screen just as readily as a 4x3 screen. This is precisely what HBO does on its HD channel.

And this problem could then extend to Academy ratio films, which may be cropped on the top and bottom so that the image extends all the way to the sides.

Once 16x9 is the norm, you will still have consumers who don't comprehend or appreciate whether the film they're watching is properly framed and in its intended ratio. They'll still want it "Formatted to fit your (16x9) screen."
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#7 of 38 OFFLINE   HalS

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Posted August 17 2001 - 10:14 AM

Quote:
With sadness, I predict the following: Widescreen/OAR presentations eventually will only be available in special-edition releases

Never happen on non-family films for a bunch of reasons.

1) Both versions easily fit on discs if the studio wants a pan and scan version.
2) More and more TV is going to be broadcast widescreen and people are becoming more accepting of it.
3) Directors want the widescreen versions.
4) Widescreen TVs are a reality that aren't going away even if the sales have lagged so far (but are starting to pick up now).
5) There's also the possibility of having separate pan and scan/widescreen discs coming out the same date as we've seen with some releases if the studio must have a pan and scan version.

Widesrceen is not going away at this point. It's use is going to become much more prevalent on TV and in cable broadcast of films, so the last thing we're going to see is a DVD market where widescreen is not available.

#8 of 38 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted August 17 2001 - 10:20 AM

Folks, check out Ron's thread on the situation--he spoke with a source at Warner who wished to remain anonymous. This, from Mr. Epstein's post:

Quote:
"Warner IS aware of the Willy Wonka demand from the internet and is now considering releasing another Special Edition letterboxed."

Now, read my first post in this thread. What did I tell you?

I don't like this at all. At all.

Rain, however, makes, as always, a good counter-argument. To which I say: Eventually, the non-enthusiast DVD buyers and renters are going to outnumber us. It won't matter if we, the ones who purchase scads of DVDs every month, are out of the game. The sheer numbers of non-enthusiasts buying into DVD are too compelling to the studios.

Imagine the typical "SE" of a year or so from now: "Widescreen/letterboxed format, chapter selections, language selections." And that's it. I wish this were simply me being alarmist. Yet, Ron's thread appears to support my argument.

Write to Warner. It's our duty.

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[Edited last by Jack Briggs on August 17, 2001 at 05:21 PM]

#9 of 38 OFFLINE   HalS

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Posted August 17 2001 - 10:31 AM

Quote:
Yet, Ron's thread appears to support my argument.

Ron's thread pertains specifically to family films. And it is not unusual that family films be treated differently than other mainstream releases. Not saying I agree with that philosophy, but I also don't think you can extend it to some kind of "oh, the sky is falling" cry as it pertains to DVD as a whole.

In the past month, you've had the head of HBO saying that he sees the demand for an all widescreen channel as part of HBO's multiplex channel offerings and he explicitly stated, he expected such a channel would arrive sooner rather than later. You've got 3 of the most popular shows in prime time TV: ER, The West Wing, and The Sopranos all of which are now being exhibited letterboxed (West Wing starting in the fall). Not many people are complaining. HBO is currently re-running the first 3 seasons of the Sopranos letter-boxed only (not offering a full screen version at the same time as they did last year for season 3).

The future for widescreen has never been brighter. Who ever thought there'd be a day when the number one drama on TV would be shown widescreen every week? That's not an enviornment where we need to worry about widescreen not being available to us.

And if anyone thinks Zemeckis is going to allow Harry Potter to be P&S only, I will bet them money right now for charity that there will be a widescreen version.

#10 of 38 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted August 17 2001 - 10:43 AM

Quote:
"The future for widescreen has never been brighter..."

I sincerely hope you are right, and I sincerely hope I am being alarmist.

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#11 of 38 OFFLINE   Rain

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Posted August 17 2001 - 10:56 AM

Quote:
...and I sincerely hope I am being alarmist.

Jack, buddy. Relax, take a deep breath and have another bowl (of Cheerio's of course). Posted Image

I honestly think that The Silence of the Lambs is going to be the litmus test.

Keep in mind that there are 19000 or so members of HTF and probably the vast majority are pro-OAR. However, this is but a small portion of film enthusiasts and pro-OAR people out there. I even know a few J6Ps that are pro-OAR already or on their way to coming around.

All is not lost yet. Posted Image

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Anyone in the Vancouver, BC area interested in meeting up? If so, click here.

Please sign the online petition against Warner Brothers' recent non-OAR releases. Click here.



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#12 of 38 OFFLINE   HalS

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Posted August 17 2001 - 11:03 AM

Quote:
I honestly think that The Silence of the Lambs is going to be the litmus test.

ER is a limus test. The West Wing is a litmus test. The fact that hit prime time shows are being broadcast in widescreen with no alternative and people will have the choice to accept that or not watch is a major test for the widespread acceptance of letter-boxing(ER had no visible ratings drop because of the switch).

#13 of 38 OFFLINE   Jeff

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Posted August 17 2001 - 11:37 AM


Now that DVD is becoming more mainstream, the studios don't have to pander to us early adopter/HT enthusiasts.

It wouldn't surprise me, when rental pricing comes to affect, that SOME DVD's are released in P&S only. Then later on, as Jack says, a Special Edition WS version will come out. This has been the VHS model for years and it has worked for the studios.

Jeff

#14 of 38 OFFLINE   HalS

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Posted August 17 2001 - 11:58 AM

quote:
It wouldn't surprise me, when rental pricing comes to affect, that SOME DVD's are released in P&S only. Then later on, as Jack says, a Special Edition WS version will come out. This has been the VHS model for years and it has worked for the studios.[/quote]

I should have clarified my remarks better, I was speaking solely to the sell through market since we are talking about the purchase of DVDs here. If the studios do go the route of rental pricing, then I agree with what you say. But again, that wouldn't affect us much anyway because we wouldn't be buying the titles at that point (though of course rental pricing would affect us in other ways, which is another discussion). The key is that when titles are released for purchase, I believe it will continue to be with the overwhelming percentage offering OAR.

PS. While I believe the studios will do what's best for them in terms of the bottom line (as they should), I think it's very much an open question as to whether rental pricing will be the best way to go.

[Edited last by HalS on August 17, 2001 at 07:00 PM]

#15 of 38 OFFLINE   george kaplan

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Posted August 17 2001 - 12:38 PM

I have to agree with Rain here. I think it'll be a long time until the actual number of purchases made by pro pan&scanners is higher than the total number of purchases made by pro-OAR people.

Let's see if Willy Wonka SE (stupid edition) sells more than Toy Story did.

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#16 of 38 OFFLINE   Glenn Overholt

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Posted August 17 2001 - 01:07 PM

Ok, but where are we going to be in 5 years? Really?

This is for the U.S. - of course.
1. Hopefully, small widescreen TV's will be out, and even more hopefully, 4:3 will hit the junk heap.

2. This goes along with the conversion to HDTV. (Which is really going to be a mess, I'm sure.) But, the stations are slowly turning over to their new channels, and I think in about 5 years all of them will be converted.

3. More and more shows are being broadcast in widescreen. Ome soap opera has started doing it too. I am sure that this fall season will have more than ever before.

4. J6P - Ok, he's a jerk, and ruining everything for us. In 5 years, most of them will have DVD players. They will gradually replace all of those stupid VHS machines. True, they don't buy them, but they rent in huge masses. There is no argument there, but one by one, they will discover the advantages of having a widescreen set, and then everything will fall into place.

That's the way I feel.

Glenn

#17 of 38 OFFLINE   Chris Biggs

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Posted August 17 2001 - 02:23 PM

I hope it doesn't come to requiring this, but we all may have to work harder than ever to educate J6P on the advantages of widescreen. There are still millions of dummies out there that think studios are covering up the tops and bottoms. Education is going to make problems like this go away. I just hope other studios don't pick up on this trend from Warner.
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#18 of 38 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted August 17 2001 - 04:00 PM

Jeez, I am exhausted! These last two weeks have been murder!

Just yesterday I posted somewhere that were all doomed, the sky is falling etc... But the more I think about it, and I could think of nothing else for two weeks, the more i'm beginning to see that Warner's action are an aberation, a freak thing that this ONE studio is doing. As said above, it is ridiculous to think that widescreen will go away, it won't, it will be their. It would be INCREDIBLY foolish, not to mention stupid for the studios to just dump something that is just catching on, well for the mainstream anyway, we've had the pleasure of it for years on LD.

So, just take a nice deep breath, let it out, go to bed, and sleep soundly, NOW GET UP QUICK CAUSE WERE ALL FUCKED!! Just kidding! Posted Image

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#19 of 38 OFFLINE   Erwin

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Posted August 17 2001 - 05:42 PM

Well, here are some things that did not happen which I think eveyone did not think was going to happen anytime soon (But it did), and these are all very good things:

1.) DIVX (a format with mostly Pan & Scan) crashed.
2.) DVD (about 95% widescreen only) is actually being a threat to VHS.
3.) Disney is putting their animated classics on DVD.
4.) Fox is releasing a Star Wars film on DVD.
5.) Universal released Jurassic Park.
6.) Fox and Disney release animorphic DVDs.
7.) Disney has released probably some of the best Collectors/ Special Editions known to man.
8.) There are now more DVDs taking up space in Wal-Mart and Target than VHS tapes.
9.) DVD players can be had for about the same price as a 4head Hi-Fi VHS player.
10.) All studios release DVDs day and date with VHS.



#20 of 38 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted August 17 2001 - 05:49 PM

Am I the only one who notices that WB is only pan & scanning 1.85:1 family films?

WB has well-founded thoughts (although, half-baked) on different groups.

They know most people wanting to buy a movie such as Cats & Dogs don't really care about the integrity of the film...they want some kiddie fodder. (This is my opinion, so don't challenge it: Cats & Dogs is indeed a popcorn family movie...)

They know that most people who will buy Cats & Dogs probably wouldn't buy a movie such as Doctor Zhivago.

To them, Doctor Zhivago would most likely be purchased by movie buffs, cinema fans, David Lean fans, etc...

This is why you see a minimal-extras DVD of a movie such as Cats & Dogs. Why else would WB be putting the time into Doctor Zhivago....2 disc SE...commentaries...making-of special...the works.

So...WB's theory is that the family/children titles are more likely to be purchased by people who don't really care much about stuff like commentaries and letterboxing. Classics are going to be targeted for the film buffs (us).

The problem they're having is that some family titles are classics and they don't realize it.

Superman (and its sequels) and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure are certainly family titles, but they're also classics at the same time. They did these titles perfectly.

By the way....FOX had the gall to release a pan & scanned version of My Fair Lady.....the restored version! Good thing WB took that film back for DVD. (Didn't Columbia P&S Lawrence of Arabia for VHS? Or is this a hopefully false rumor?)


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