Posted May 05 2011 - 06:51 AM
Often times, there's more to it than just having an HD master to releasing a blu-ray. There's rights, for one thing. The Criterion Collection for example, has been mastering in HD for quite some time, yet the vast majority of those films have not yet been released on blu-ray, partly because they can only release so many films at a time, but mostly because they have to renegotiate the license agreement, because a high definition release is a new beast, a different revenue stream, and the holders of the copyright will want extra for that priviledge. I believe this was why the Von Sternberg silents did not get a corresponding blu-ray release...CC did not, or was not able to get the HD/Blu-ray license from the rights holders.
It could also be that the means by which the HD master was made is no longer suitable. 10 years ago, the technology wasn't really in place for, say, transfers from original 65mm/70mm elements, so films like Patton were mastered from 35mm reduction prints. Other films were mastered only in 1080p or 2K, which really doesn't resolve 35mm...you need 4K for that, and 6-8K for large format.
Then there's color correction and redoing any restoration effects. I believe when CC revisited Seven Samurai for their new HD master, they had to redo all their image restoration work.
And then, sadly, there is the profit motive. No doubt about it, the home video market has taken a beating. the DVD market has collapsed, streaming and VOD has taken a bite out of the market, and studios got burned on DVD releases, and even the blu-rays of their crown jewels have underperformed (The Wizard of OZ and Gone with the Wind blus were reportedly financial disappointments). Some are just plain skittish about investing the money to do proper transfers/restorations/remasters of titles and releasing them on blu-ray. It's why Criterion has been making inroads with the studios of late, and releasing more top shelf titles like "Paths of Glory" and "Kiss Me Deadly," because now, there isn't as much of a profit motive for the owners, and they'd rather just outsource it to a boutique label like CC, and pocket cold hard cash from the license agreement and royalties.