DVD Double-Dipping Plays on Fans’ Folly

By Jason Menard

The next time you have a party, you may want to cross those Hollywood movie moguls off of your invite list – they’re proving to be notorious double-dippers.

Earlier this week Francis Ford Coppola released Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier, calling it the definitive presentation of his legendary film. Well, definitive until the next opportunity to dip into fans’ pockets presents itself.

Looking over at my DVD collection I find my copy of Apocalypse Now: Redux, which in itself was – at the time – the definitive rendering of the film. You know, the movie the way the director intended it to be, before all those nasty Imperialistic Forces like society, studios, and financiers got in the way of Coppola’s vision.

So, in the end, the more committed fans of the film could find three versions of one film staring back at them from their shelves. That’s three times one person has shelled out for the same movie.

At least Coppola’s first and second releases were markedly different in presentation. And this third one combines both presentations, so for those still slowly replacing their old VHS tapes (or, shudder, BETA), this isn’t a bad release to start off with. But increasingly film studios are re-releasing films, with minor tweaks or extra additions, just because they can – and a gullible public will continue to buy their films.

No genre is immune from this cash grab. Good films and schlock alike will exist in multiple versions. Didn’t buy the 1996 release of Swingers? Fret not because you can still get the 2003 Collector’s Series edition. Liked Clerks? Well, you can pick up the original release of the film on DVD, but the true fan knows they’ve also got to have Clerk X – the 10 th anniversary edition. Hell, George Lucas has developed a cottage industry in releasing and re-releasing versions of the original Star Wars trilogy? And if the gazillion versions out there weren’t enough, there’s another one on the way, just in time for Christmas!

Remember The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Remember how fans breathless with anticipation could purchase an impressive DVD reproduction of the film – all the while knowing that a more robust version would be released the following November! And that doesn’t even count the special boxed versions with your collectable Gollum figurine.

Even Jennifer Garner’s star turn in 13 Going on 30, released on DVD in 2004 received a make-over with the release of the Fun ‘n’ Flirty edition less than two years later!!!! I mean, c’mon. It was a cute film and all, but was anyone’s life seriously lacking from the omission of the “pick the right 80’s outfit” or Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl video?

While the movie studios will altruistically claim that they’re simply giving the fans what they want, and providing them with a greater film experience, the truth of the matter is that these re-releases and re-re-releases simply show the level of contempt that studios have for their viewing audience. They know that people, for whatever reason, get emotionally involved in these films, and by offering more film-centric experiences they’re able to tug at the fans’ heartstrings hard enough to make that wallet fly open.

The great fear was that our DVDs, like VHS and film reels before them, would become obsolete via the advent of the next great technology. The truth is that our DVDs will be made obsolete by the advent of the next great version of the film.

Film is not the only medium that is guilty of turning to its loyal fan base for a cash grab. Some video game producers do this annually! One of the most popular video game franchises, the Madden football series, enjoys the financial windfall of annual revisions. And while in the past some revisions have only been minor tweaks to game play, that hasn’t prevented the game developer from charging full price for essentially the same game, only with a new cover and another year added to the title.

Of course, video games have also used the power of re-releases for good. Greatest Hits designations involve a reissuing of popular games, at a much lower price, thereby increasing the penetration to a less-affluent segment of the game-buying public. Unfortunately, there is no correlating drop-off in price for films entering their second edition.

It’s only the most avid film buff that will even benefit from many of the additions that re-released versions include. I own a substantial number of DVDs and I can count on one hand those on which I’ve actually explored the special features. I’ve yet to watch a film with the director’s or the actor’s commentary overlapping. In fact, I quite enjoy the film just as it is, thank you very much.

And perhaps that attitude will be my salvation. As I look at my collection, I can say that there are no duplicates of films. Although there may be those bearing the Special Edition, Collectors Edition, or even the Awesome! Totally Awesome Edition (in the case of Fast Times at Ridgemont High), they were chosen because I liked the film and that’s the version I found – not for any desire to expand my experience through DVD-ROM games or exclusive interviews with the costume designer.

Films in themselves are an experience. We fans get attached to our favourite authors, directors, and production, but that doesn’t mean we have to be slaves to their every whim. And if movie companies really want to respect their fans and give them what they want, why not get it right the first time? Cram everything you have in the first release – don’t dole it out piecemeal, reserving the juicier bits for subsequent releases.

Of course, that would show that the movie studios respect their fans more than the mighty dollar – and as much as I love a good comedy, I’m not prepared to suspend my disbelief that much.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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