The fact that most "special editions" are so very redundant may be an important factor here - the majority of the masses are not going to spend their hard-earned cash in these difficult times buying stuff they already have!!! Never before on DVD titles (whether new or catalog) by all means, but not second or triple dippings.
This may be my first time responding to you so please accept a delayed "Welcome."
I agree with you. The problem that all of us see happening is that the studios are putting out catalog and boxed set releases that are simply regurgitated versions of their last release, often with the exact same transfer.
On the other hand, all of us who read this forum are more sensitive to these kind of things than the general public. The studios are betting on those individuals who perhaps did not buy their favorite TV shows or classic films the first time out and now have the opportunity to do so as a bulk set or repackaged Special Edition that often costs less than what it would have the first go-round.
A good example that I have is the upcoming release of the HBO series, "The Wire." After all these years I am ready to start watching this show and I kind of like the fact a big boxed set of all the seasons is being offered at a pricepoint that is less than what it would have cost to buy them individually. However, I do have to say that money is tight this year and spending $160 for the boxed set of the the entire series has now become a low priority for me.
I am surprised that the studios haven't released more films digitally.
They could sell things on iTunes that they don't need to press discs for. If something sells well on iTunes, then they could do a DVD release later.
They could even work with Apple to incorporate a new feature in iTunes where you can burn a film from a file to a DVD a few times (like how iTunes lets you burn music to CDs)
We know the studios tend to have some good masters that are shown on cable TV, but not released on DVD. Selling them as digital files could be a good intermediate way for them to get some money back, without the expense of making and distributing discs.
I don't buy many DVDs any more, and I've long since stopped caring about "special editions." I used to listen to commentaries, watch featurettes, etc., but now I'm likely to only watch the movie. I'm not even that concerned with the print. Yeah, I want it to look nice, but if it's OAR and I own it, it would take a pretty special movie for me to rebuy just because the new edition is reputed to have a better transfer. Sure, I'll buy another Star Wars box if they fix the issues or give me an anamorphic transfer of the original theatrical versions, but I don't really need another copy of Summer School.
I guess one reason I've stopped caring is because I don't have Blu-Ray yet, and I figure a new transfer on SD DVD will pale in comparison to an HD version, all things being equal. If I rebuy Summer School now, I'll just have to rebuy it again on Blu-Ray to really have it look nice.
Please excuse the Summer School example. I guess it's just my go-to for "movies I really enjoy, but for which presentation doesn't matter so much."
and yes I understand that reasoning too, although I can't help but wonder how many people there are who know and enjoy the films being repackaged but who have never bought them or even received them as gifts in the past. There must obviously be many, many more in this situation than I think, thus this marketing strategy. When all is said and done, I hope it works great for all concerned!