Why were LaserDiscs more expensive...

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Brennan Hill, Feb 16, 2002.

  1. Brennan Hill

    Brennan Hill Stunt Coordinator

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    ...then DVD's are? [​IMG]
     
  2. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Higher manufacturing costs (I heard $8/disc somewhere, although that seems nuts), a smaller audience which kept economics of scale from helping out, and an extra layer of licensing - Image or Pioneer had to pay for the rights to manufacture a disc, so their expenses were higher.
     
  3. Ryan L B

    Ryan L B Supporting Actor

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    they were extremly big, and you had to turn them over around half way through the movie no matter haw long it is.
     
  4. Bruce Hedtke

    Bruce Hedtke Cinematographer

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    I would guess a couple answers might be:

    1-Multiple discs-mastering multiple discs is inherently going to incur more costs than a single disc or single sided discs.

    2-Limited runs-LD numbers were tiny compared to VHS and DVD so the cost of pressing films to that format were going to be higher per product run.

    3-New technology-the hardware needed to produce the discs was new generation and therefore, harder to maintain and costlier to operate.

    Bruce
     
  5. Larry Schneider

    Larry Schneider Second Unit

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    Bad marketing decisions. They never tried to sell LD as a mass market item. Hardware and software consts were kept artificially high.
     
  6. alan halvorson

    alan halvorson Cinematographer

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    The odd thing is that at the beginning, before there was such a thing as tape sell-through, LDs were widely touted as being cheaper than tape - which it was by a long shot. LDs normally listed for ~$30-$40, roughly half as much as recorded tape (does anyone remember paying a fee, about equivalent to the retail cost of a tape, to become a member of a video rental store? This was quite common in my area; I don't know about others). As an old-time LD collector, I always smile when someone says something about laser discs being so expensive.

    Depending on the size of the run (a typical run, I believe, was something like 10,000 copies), discs cost about $5-6 each to manufacture and never really came down like tape and now dvd have. Mastering costs were relatively low, at least compared to dvd. LDs remained pretty at the above price range until the last few years of its life, when the typical low point rose to $35 and then $40. Pretty hard to get much of a discount also, in those days.
     
  7. John P Grosskopf

    John P Grosskopf Second Unit

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    For the studios, the fact that LD never caught on with the masses was actually a good move for them money-wise IMO.
    By keeping it a "boutique" format, its appeal was limited to a sector of consumers used to paying a bit more than the average consumer for their entertainment choices (i.e. Mercedes owners, Lexus Owners, and the Beverly Hillbillies [​IMG]).
    Since a high-quality entertainment system was all but a requirement to exploit the format, this further limited the audience to those who could put change on the counter for expensive hardware.
    Therefore, the studios could charge a premium to the customer, passing on production costs to a market willing to pay the higher price and making a healthy bit of return for a minimum of effort.
    To make back the same amount of revenue if LD had become a truly mainstream format, both studios and hardware manufacturers would have to have been committed to bringing down production costs on both hardware and software fronts. Technological improvements to a large, analog format like LD was not going to be as cheap in the long run as the cheap digital technology of the future, so efforts were not made to bring it to the masses.
    LD instead, I believe, became a "research" format that eventually led to DVD for the masses (i.e. digital video processing & AC-3 sound). As long as a few in the market were willing to pay outrageous prices for equipment and software to support an entire segment of the industry with minimum effort from those who produced it, there was no real need for it to go beyond the scope it did. Plus, the LD crowd operated as a ready group of guinea pigs on which to introduce and refine features and technologies going into the new formats and products.
    The LD consumers, in effect, were financing the R&D for DVD. These same consumers, being used to high quality of LD, would also be those counted on by the studios as early adopters for DVD, the format that brought costs down to a point where mass marketing finally made economic sense. the studios and manufaturers were right, and that's exactly what played out in electronics stores world wide.
    Remember, DVD was not instantly cheap...it took a few years to get sub $100 players, FOX to abandon the $35-no-frills-single-disc-price-point, and decent quality "all in one box" systems that allowed the average consumer to experience the thrills and chills of hometheater that the LD crowd had almost exclusive access to only a few scant years earlier.
    DVD is now as common McDonalds for good or bad, but it's the LD crowd that paved the way by paying those higher prices and finacing the future of digital technology; which I said above was a good move financially for the software/hardware manufacturers.
    I still love LD and have fully embraced DVD, so I guess I financed my own entertainment future by supporting both formats heavily. It is cheaper for me now than in the old days, but it's also not quite as special...just like McDonalds.
    BTW, since I drive a Chevy truck, I must be one of them thar hillbillie types (or at least resdie in Texas). [​IMG]
     
  8. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Yes, LDs cost $8 to press. Then with packaging and shipping you were talking $10 MANUFACTURER cost, and that's per disc for the most part

    So a CAV box ran in the neighborhood of $20-30 to manufacture. Ouch!
     
  9. luke j. chung

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    As a 22-year veteran of the disc formats, I also remember that VHS tapes in 1980 used to cost anywhere from $70 to $100 a pop! The fact that laserdiscs only cost about half that much and offered higher quality picture and sound with no wear and tear on the discs made me a believer in the format and I stuck to it until DVD's debut in early 1997. In fact, for the first 18 months, I still bought laserdiscs of titles that weren't being made available by some of the more "conservative" studios that weren't releasing any titles in DVD, such as Fox, Disney and Paramount. So those of you who consider DVD's expensive should really consider how fortunate you are that people like us early adapters made it possible to enjoy true high quality home theater at reasonable mainstream prices for both equipment and software![​IMG]
     
  10. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    John made some truly outstanding points as did everybody else on this thread! I'll fill in a few small gaps I see. I bought over 500 LD's new. I only had to return, as best I can remember, 5. The return costs associated with distributing VHS are immense compared to LD and now DVD. This made LD ultra profitable!
    Laserdiscs were the most profitable product the studios/music companies have ever sold. That's why Disney, Fox, and Paramount didn't want DVD to fly, at first. In their eyes a cheaper priced DVD disc was an inferior disc. Oh how they miss the price gouging days!...and hate seeing Warner collect royalties from them!!!!!
    There was no way the LD format was going to be discontinued even in the lean years of the 80's. There was no way that the directors, Academy members, and such folks were going to let that happen. The industry folks sure didn't want to watch or even touch those nasty tapes they earned their livelyhood off! Try imagining Martin " I could swear I'm watching film" Scorsese watching a VHS tape in his HT in, say, 1994. No way! He proably only stooped to watchng Laserdiscs when He absolutely couldn't obtain a copy on real film!
    The LD market was by and for industry folks to have decent home video and anybody else who would ante up for their one-sided game. They laughed all the way to the bank. Sometimes they grossly miscalculated just how much even collectors would pay. The 1993 STAR WARS trio of discs is a spectacular example.
    How many people on this forum have copies of the trio that they bought cheap because "little Georgie" and Fox, apparently, thought the sheep would get in line in droves to pay $69.99 for each of the films. Those 3 disc sets must be the most over produced titles in the history of the format. Beaucoups of folks on this forum have bought them dirt cheap on closeout thanks to their miscalculation! I've always contended that the original pricing of those discs did more to hurt the LD format than any other event in the history of the format. Wanna talk about hurting player sales!!!!
    In the LD days there must have been a lazy executive and his yes men at every studio who's job it was to pull LD prices out of the air. (inbeween putts into a cup accross the room) "Guys, don't you think those peons and lunies will pay $44.95 for STARGATE?"... "Absolutely Mr. Heck!" "What about you J.B.?" " I'd go for more but that's just me. I'm a go for broke kind of guy." "What do you think Saul?".... "Well, we could proably get more from them, that's only a 386 % profit margin, but I could live with that"
    Today, I'm sure the executives are busy plotting another format or pay-per-view scheame that's even close to as profitable as the LD market. With the DMCA as a tool they proably think they can.
    It's certainly worth noteing that once DVD had struck that most LD list prices suddenly droped to $29.99....! They were very profitable at that price point too because they were willing to make very small runs.
    I think Jeff's cost quesstimate is overly generous. In 1982 LD's were a pain to make because they hadn't figured everything out. By 1992 there was gold in them thar discs! Alot of it too....
     
  11. Michael Harris

    Michael Harris Screenwriter

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    It was said during the hayday of LD that "Laserdiscs were bought by the same people who would buy the hardback version of a book rather than the paperback". Just take a look at my book collection.[​IMG]
     
  12. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  13. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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  14. Michael St. Clair

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    I always thought that most people who bought the original letterboxed $70 Star Wars LDs bought them like me...as Columbia House enrollment titles. [​IMG]
    As far as the price of pressing LDs go, I don't buy it. What Animeigo paid was likely a LOT more than what other people who were dealing in higher volume paid.
    Case in point. I have the LD of 'The Accidental Tourist'...I bought it way back when.
    This disc was released in 1989, a lifetime ago in LD production.
    It came on 2 discs, and retail was $29.95. This was typical of many Warner releases of this time period. There is no way in hell that they would have released it if the manufacturing cost was $18 to $20...they would have lost money after all the expenses and markups of getting it to the consumer.
    Single disc releases (Beetlejuice, Joe Versus the Volcano) around this time from Warner retailed for only $24.95!
     
  15. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    I think we should also mention that LD was an analog media (at least in respect to video). A digital media such as DVD can be considered "good enough" if the pits are roughly in the right place. Not so with LD: any noise introduced in the manufacturing process will show up on-screen. So I am sure that there were many more LD rejects that never made it out of the factory than DVD rejects these days.
    Does anyone have any statistics on the "yield" rate in LD vs. DVD pressing?
     
  16. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    Dennis, I can tell you from my personal experience that I've purchased many more bad Laserdiscs than I've ever purchased bad DVDs. On average, 1 LD out of 10 was bad. But with DVDs, only the first Urusei Yatsura box set and the first Troma DVD releases ever game my Sony S500D DVD player any trouble. And the problems with the Troma discs were resolved with a simple firmware upgrade.
    I don't miss the Laserdisc days all that much. I still buy the occasional used Laserdisc when I find something interesting, but I don't dwell all that much on the past. With DVDs, they're less expensive and there's so much less to worry about.
    Plus, I can watch DVDs during my lunch hour! [​IMG]
     
  17. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    Actually, laserdiscs were supposed to be VERY inexpensive when they were introduced- I have a copy of a 1979 DiscoVision brocure which lists the titles available then; most movies (all in CAV) had an average price of $15.99, and 30-minute discs like "Smoking: How To Stop" were priced at $5.98! The problem was the failure rate was very high; the first discs were made on modified record pressing equipment and they didn't know you had to have a "clean room" environment to make them. I heard they lost money on most of the movies sold because they would be returned several times before a copy with minimal problems could be found; people even resorted to swapping out the bad discs in multi-disc sets and replacing those with better ones as side 1 might be OK but side 4 would look terrible. It wasn't until Pioneer took over that the quality improved; I have several old discs that have snow and other analog video noise in the picture and noisy analog soundtracks (the analog sound on LDs isn't bad at all on more recent discs.)

    Regardless of cost, I thought LD prices by the 1990's were just ridiculous. One thing that got me to buy a player was that Warner had been pricing their LDs from $25-30, but they went up to $35 as soon as I got my player! Most single disc movies (under 2 hours) were $35, with some at $40 from companies like Di$ney and Fox, and 2-disc movies (which were needed for ANYTHING running over 2 hours, even if the movie was 2 hours and 1 minute long!) were priced from $40-50! I still wonder just how many copies of Pauly Shore's "In the Army Now" were sold at $39.99 retail.
     
  18. Daniel L

    Daniel L Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, when you have figure in the whole run of Sony laser discs from thier Terra Haute, Indiana plant, or course it will be skewed in favor of DVD... [​IMG]
    As for releasing defective disc on the makret, at least in the "old" days of laser discs the studios had to actually fix their mistakes. Hell, Disney & Image knew they blew Beauty & The Beast: WIP and made a secondary run for replacements.
    Now with DVD being so main stream, and the average consumer being an idiot, you can go and release a defective disc such as Vampire in Brooklyn.
    So few people pay attention that most are attibuting the right front channel & left rear channel swap to being a "highly arressive surround track." Paramount knows it's defective, but as of this writing has no intention of replacing this disc. I guess they figure you can just listen to the surround sound tracks, or are hoping the hype dies away as is their plan with the Godfather. (Hopefully this will be resolved, but I'm not holding my breath.)
    Daniel L
    Quick triva note, what is this Warren Lieberfarb quote referring to?
    "This is the format of the future!"
    Wrong, it's not DVD, but his boast in the late 80's about laser discs.
     
  19. Alex Morrow

    Alex Morrow Stunt Coordinator

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    Dennis,

    I had a friend work at the Indiana Sony plant during the hey day of LDs. When I found this out I hit him up for info about everything that went on there. Appearently during the high humidity times of the year their LD yeild would be about ZERO. During the other times of the year it would be extremely bad anyways. I'm thinking like 50% or less. The price of $7 per disc I believe is still also valid. It would come down a little if you pressed a lot more.
     
  20. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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