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Is the Classic-Film Blu-ray Market Drawing to a Close?


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#1 of 159 Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 26 2011 - 03:11 AM

A member sent me a link to a very interesting article 

concerning classic titles on Blu-ray.


As much as I enjoy watching these beautifully restored

prints in high definition, I am somewhat concerned that

the market for them may very well be in huge decline
despite the fact we have seen some major classics

already released to the format.


What's your opinion on this predicament after reading

the linked article?




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#2 of 159 Matt Hough

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Posted April 26 2011 - 03:19 AM

Writers who compose these gloom and doom scenarios must be privy to sales information we never see. I'd be VERY interested to see sales totals on classics that we all swoon over here.


What expectations does Warners have for a title like, say, The Maltese Falcon? Obviously they wouldn't expect sales of an Oz or Wind. When they say those classics failed, what kinds of numbers are we talking about?


We also read contradictory information about the popularity or lack of same concerning classics. Fox touted last year that the Blu-ray of The Sound of Music was the largest selling vault title of 2010. But what kind of numbers are we talking? Obviously not the same amount of sales that Avatar enjoyed, but what kinds of numbers constitutes success or failure with these titles?



#3 of 159 Doug Otte

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Posted April 26 2011 - 03:23 AM

Thanks, Ron.  That was very interesting.  I'd like to see more concrete figures, too.  It seems like we've seen a lot of classic releases over the last year or so (what IS the definition of "classic film," anyway?), so when will the drawdown occur?









#4 of 159 Walter Kittel

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Posted April 26 2011 - 03:34 AM

While I don't know what will happen, I will say that...


I would rather see the studios charge larger margins on classics and let those enthusiasts whose desire to see the classics support the market rather than cater to the 'film as toy' masses who won't purchase a film if it is 1.33:1 or black and white.  While I can't say that I would like to see LD prices return, I would prefer that scenario to a complete lack of support for the classics.


- Walter.


Fidelity to the source should always be the goal for Blu-ray releases.

#5 of 159 benbess

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Posted April 26 2011 - 04:14 AM

If this is true, perhaps it could bring about an expansion of companies like Criterion? Criterion might get to do more titles like Shane...?


Why did that article not mention Warner's George Feltenstein (unless I missed it)?. To me he is one of the heroes when it comes to film restoration for blu-ray. And since WB has about the biggest library on the block, that seems like a good thing.


I agree with the point of the article that the studios can't expect to make their money back on classics right away. Perhaps it's unrealistic, but I think they should have a 5-10 year time horizon for making back the cost of restoration. After a film is not just sold on blu but dvd and shown countless times on TCM,  Netflix HD streaming, and other networks, probably it will make back the money put into it. But they can't think of it as a short term profit thing. It needs to be a long term investment for the decades to come in the prime assets of these companies.





#6 of 159 Sam Favate

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Posted April 26 2011 - 04:17 AM

Wells lost me when he wrote "Blu-ray is almost certainly down for the count."

I just don't believe that, and I'd direct anyone who thinks otherwise to read Bill Hunt's excellent editorial from The Digital Bits last week: http://www.thedigita...192.html#041911





#7 of 159 Cinescott

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Posted April 26 2011 - 04:40 AM

Blu-ray's always going to be a niche product, but I see physical media always having a place in the market, including enough profit to drive new releases of "classic" films. Studios should go all out to remaster the crown jewels in their collections, but as we've seen, they often cut corners when it comes to less profitable titles.

We're already seeing the results of low margins on Blu-ray. Look at many of the shoddy transfers we've seen since the format began. The list is long and the Catch 22 is that the poor reviews will continue to drive the "Blu ray's no better than DVD" stigma.


The Star Wars Saga on Blu-ray should somewhat stabilize the market, but it won't solve everything. If Steven Spielberg would release more A list titles, that'd help as well. There are so many fans who'd buy into Blu-ray for "Jaws" or "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Jurassic Park." These are huge titles that likely won't require much of an upgrade cost by the studios (since they're probably on pretty pristine hi-def masters already), so why the wait? The blockbusters will drive the market. "If you release them, they will buy." I know that directors like Spielberg often wait for a "market saturation point" before green lighting anything, but they may be waiting too long. It doesn't have to be tomorrow, but say something, anything, about when we may be able to see these titles. (That whole 'control freak' thing drives me crazy). I'm a rabid movie fan who bought into Blu-ray in 2007 and even I may have had my doubts had I known I'd still be waiting for "Jaws" in 2011. Worse yet, it's only the tip of the title holdout iceberg. So what's it going to be? 2012? 2013? Never? I think they overestimate the patience of the buying public.

Also, one pet peeve of mine is that studios refuse to take advantage of the SD advantages of Blu-ray as a simple space-saving measure. How about classic TV seasons or miniseries in SD transfered to ONE disc? That would be a huge buying incentive for me! There isn't much of a benefit to upgrade shows shot in SD to HD, so why not put them on Blu-ray in SD? I have a couple of TV series on DVD that take up huge amounts of shelf space. I'd gladly re-buy this content for the space savings Blu-ray could bring. One of the advantages DVD had over VHS was that it is compact. BR is more compact than DVD, but most don't even know it! A BD has 50 GB of space, use it! I know the arguments about putting SD on a hi-def format causing confusion, etc. Just put a freaking sticker on the thing in bold that says this disc contains SD content!

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#8 of 159 RobertR

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Posted April 26 2011 - 04:51 AM



Originally Posted by Cinescott 



Also, one pet peeve of mine is that studios refuse to take advantage of the SD advantages of Blu-ray as a simple space-saving measure. How about classic TV seasons or miniseries in SD transfered to ONE disc? That would be a huge buying incentive for me! There isn't much of a benefit to upgrade shows shot in SD to HD, so why not put them on Blu-ray in SD?

There's a big flaw in that argument:  Most TV shows were shot on film, which is NOT "SD".  Therefore, they would benefit from being released in hidef.  Anyone who has seen the superb Twilight Zone BDs knows this.  To argue otherwise puts you in the position of saying BD isn't much of an improvement over DVD, which I don't think you want to say.




#9 of 159 benbess

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Posted April 26 2011 - 04:57 AM

I don't want to disagree with you Cinescott, but I think I do. As RobertR says, most classic shows shot on high def 35mm will blow you away on blu--witness TZ and Star Trek. And I think the format should keep its "it'll blow you away with the picture quality!" halo.


What's interesting is that HD masters exist for shows like the Andy Griffith Show, Hawaii 5-0 and Mission Impossible. I don't know if they'll ever get a blu release, but you can watch them on hd at netflix streaming now. It's not nearly as good as a blu-ray, but it's something more than a dvd...





#10 of 159 Cinescott

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Posted April 26 2011 - 05:01 AM



Originally Posted by RobertR 



There's a big flaw in that argument:  Most TV shows were shot on film, which is NOT "SD".  Therefore, they would benefit from being released in hidef.  Anyone who has seen the superb Twilight Zone BDs knows this.  To argue otherwise puts you in the position of saying BD isn't much of an improvement over DVD, which I don't think you want to say.


Shows prior to the 70s and 80s were mainly shot on film and I agree with your premise for those. However, many, many shows in the 70s and 80s were shot in standard definition video and could greatly benefit from Blu-ray's space. A show I happen to love, "All in the Family" is an example of this. It's not alone. To do a hi-def transfer of AITF would be pointless.


From Wiki:


"About half of the sitcoms on broadcast television airing between the mid-1970s and the late 1990s were shot on video."





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#11 of 159 Ed Lachmann

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Posted April 26 2011 - 05:10 AM

Well, if my monthly Visa bill from Amazon et al for almost $1K in classic films and soundtracks is any indication, there certainly is a market for classic blu-rays for a good many of us.  It's true that the audience is dwindling and really encompasses the late 40's to mid 80's crowd.  But, they are the ones most likely to buy product in the traditional way.  And, that is forty some years of leeway for millions of probable customers.  Perhaps the business model that Twilight Time uses will be the future.  Perhaps a blu-ray of something like "The Egyptian", say, will have to cost $39.95 or so.  Perhaps they will have to press only 3 to 5K of them.  I've no doubt that they would sell out.  Of course.  I'm sure that they would have to be region free in order to do so quickly.  And, get them to international Amazon sites, too.   Plus, with hi-def broadcasts also involved, it would be a win-win for the studios.  Look, I can see them failing miserably and losing fortunes if they keep putting out garbage like that remake of "Arthur".  You would have to pay ME to take home a blu-ray of that debacle.  I don't go to the movies any more and I'm not THAT old (mid-fifties), mostly because I've just paid too much to see dim-witted GARBAGE.  I think that the "bargain basement" approach to classic films on blu-ray does do a lot of harm.  People love those films and want them to be treated with respect.  You're not going to sell a Grand Theft Auto gamer a copy of "King of Kings" by pasting up a goofy new cover for it.  These movies are already in your vaults, for crying out loud.  Put your classic films up on your company's Rank Cintel (or whatever you use these days) and get to us before we and they turn to vinegar.  


#12 of 159 TravisR

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Posted April 26 2011 - 05:16 AM

Originally Posted by MattH. 

Writers who compose these gloom and doom scenarios must be privy to sales information we never see.



I don't know why you'd assume that. When a website runs an article telling me that the sky is falling, I tend to see them as being way more concerned with getting hits on their site than anything else. And the negative approach to reporting will get people talking (look how many posts there are in this thread already) and get them more hits.



#13 of 159 GMpasqua

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Posted April 26 2011 - 05:21 AM

Face it, older films wil never sell as many copies of newer films. People already own them, younger people never heard of them. Anyone comparing recent films with classics is comparing apples to oranges.


Digital downloading - sure many people will download, but many still will want an actual disc in hand that they can own - for a number of reasons:


1. you won't have to pay each time you watch it

2. you won't have to save it to your own computer system

3. You won't run the risk of the studio pulling the film when the rights expire


That last reason is reason enough - but young people do not grasp this reason yet

Downloading will relace netflix but people will stil want to own their favorite films.


Blu-ray currently is only 25% of the Disc market - and most of those consumers are only interested in new or action orientated films. Once blu-ray grows the demand for classic titles will grow (though never anywhere near what a new film will do - since people will buy the Blu-ray instead of going to the theater and save on the theater admission/parking etc costs).


But for classics to sell, people need to upgrade their tv sets and systems so they can see a difference - if they do not see a difference - why bother?

Also the fact that we are in a recession, means people aren't spending what they would on things like discs.

Plus box sets will be attractive to some consumers and even though they may not turn a profit the year of release,


Classic films will continue to sell where the lasest theaterical release will become forgotten and have less sales down the road



#14 of 159 GMpasqua

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Posted April 26 2011 - 05:33 AM

The cost of two people going to the theater : $11 to $14 per ticket = $22 - $28 dollars

The cost of popcorn $6.00 a pop, soda, parking, gas, maybe a baby sitter

All this can add up to a large amount


The blu-ray looks great and only cost on average $25.00 and you won't have to leave home, or you can netflix it


People buy newer films on blu-ray because - it's easier, it's cheaper and they don't have to go out to a theater (with cell phones and texting) to enjoy the film


New films will always have that built in market where classics do not. Classic on the other hand are cheaper to market since they are already filmed - so a Restoration of one million dollars is much cheaper than the cost of a re-make which can be $100 million dollars


Certain classics will always sell. I bet "The Lion King" is the top ordered blu-ray this week (and it don't arrive until Oct)


Of course, you have to get Walmart and Best Buy to carry them or the consumer will not know they're available.





#15 of 159 Robert Crawford

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Posted April 26 2011 - 05:46 AM



Originally Posted by GMpasqua 

The cost of two people going to the theater : $11 to $14 per ticket = $22 - $28 dollars

The cost of popcorn $6.00 a pop, soda, parking, gas, maybe a baby sitter

All this can add up to a large amount


The blu-ray looks great and only cost on average $25.00 and you won't have to leave home, or you can netflix it


People buy newer films on blu-ray because - it's easier, it's cheaper and they don't have to go out to a theater (with cell phones and texting) to enjoy the film


New films will always have that built in market where classics do not. Classic on the other hand are cheaper to market since they are already filmed - so a Restoration of one million dollars is much cheaper than the cost of a re-make which can be $100 million dollars


Certain classics will always sell. I bet "The Lion King" is the top ordered blu-ray this week (and it don't arrive until Oct)


Of course, you have to get Walmart and Best Buy to carry them or the consumer will not know they're available.





The key question to be answered is whether the studio can sell enough units of a particular classic film to not only cover the cost of producing a fine Blu-ray disc, but also generate enough profit margin to justify that expense and effort.








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#16 of 159 GMpasqua

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Posted April 26 2011 - 06:04 AM

Another question: "Patton" is getting a new transfer? "Lawrence of Arabia" is coming out next year? Have these been confirmed anywhere?



#17 of 159 GMpasqua

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Posted April 26 2011 - 06:15 AM

Amazon's top selling blu-rays (today)

 

1 The Lion King (Four-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

2 Blow Out (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (Three-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

4 Austin Powers Collection: Shagadelic Edition Loaded With Extra Mojo (International Man of Mystery / The Spy Who Shagged Me / Goldmember) [Blu-ray]

5 Tangled (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

6 The Lion King Trilogy (Eight-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

7 The King's Speech [Blu-ray]

8 Beauty and the Beast (Five Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

9 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 [Blu-ray]

10 Le Cercle Rouge (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

11 How to Train Your Dragon (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo


Amazon has stated in the past:  when the price comes down, the sales go up (Disney is having an $8 coupon sale this week and many Criterions are also on sale)



#18 of 159 benbess

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Posted April 26 2011 - 06:22 AM



Originally Posted by GMpasqua 

Amazon's top selling blu-rays (today)

 

1 The Lion King (Four-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

2 Blow Out (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (Three-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

4 Austin Powers Collection: Shagadelic Edition Loaded With Extra Mojo (International Man of Mystery / The Spy Who Shagged Me / Goldmember) [Blu-ray]

5 Tangled (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

6 The Lion King Trilogy (Eight-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

7 The King's Speech [Blu-ray]

8 Beauty and the Beast (Five Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

9 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 [Blu-ray]

10 Le Cercle Rouge (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

11 How to Train Your Dragon (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo


Amazon has stated in the past:  when the price comes down, the sales go up (Disney is having an $8 coupon sale this week and many Criterions are also on sale)

So this is proof that classics can sell big. Blow Out was not even a hit when it was released in 1981. And yet it is number 2 on the sales list. In fact, amazon has even sold out of their huge stock on this title, and are now saying it'll be 9-13 days until it gets back in stock. And even at a huge discount it's selling at $19. Criterion carefully selected this title, gave it a top quality transfer, plus they loaded it up with extras.

I think the major studios can make money on classics too, but like Criterion imho they need to make the experience special. And often they do! Look at The Searchers, or The Ten Commandments or...


Anyway, I think just like the death of Mark Twain many years before he kicked the bucket the death of classics on blu-ray is just not a reality at this time.


It is a tough and tricky biz, but as Criterion has shown you can have good success with it.





#19 of 159 cineMANIAC

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Posted April 26 2011 - 06:24 AM

If a studio doesn't believe certain titles will sell they can always farm them out to Criterion or another label who will do it justice. I have no problem paying upwards of $30 for a great classic release. I also agree with the above poster that certain titles will always do well, especially if done right. Also, we've only just scratched the surface with classic releases - there are still tons of movies to get to. They're already predicting the end?


 

 


#20 of 159 TravisR

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Posted April 26 2011 - 06:36 AM

Originally Posted by GMpasqua 

Amazon's top selling blu-rays (today)

 

1 The Lion King (Four-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

2 Blow Out (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (Three-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

4 Austin Powers Collection: Shagadelic Edition Loaded With Extra Mojo (International Man of Mystery / The Spy Who Shagged Me / Goldmember) [Blu-ray]

5 Tangled (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

6 The Lion King Trilogy (Eight-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

7 The King's Speech [Blu-ray]

8 Beauty and the Beast (Five Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

9 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 [Blu-ray]

10 Le Cercle Rouge (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

11 How to Train Your Dragon (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo


Amazon has stated in the past:  when the price comes down, the sales go up (Disney is having an $8 coupon sale this week and many Criterions are also on sale)



Yes, good prices help sell discs but Amazon's sales figures are only indicative of what Amazon is selling and not the market as a whole. The three Disney titles are newly listed pre-orders on Amazon so they're much higher than they will be in a week or a month from now. Austin Powers is on sale for 50% off. Blow Out came out today is on sale for more than 50% and it isn't a title that you can find in stores (maybe Barnes And Noble or Borders carries it for the $40 MSRP) and the same is true for Le Cercle Rouge (except it came out 2 weeks ago). Once you look at the reasons for why those catalog titles are in the top 10, it becomes clear that they are probably the exception and not the rule.






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