Monday, January 23, 2012
They made BluRays of these movies why, exactly?
We all know that prices for movies on physical media are seriously in the tank. Generally speaking, the only movies that can be priced at top dollar have been released within the past six months, maybe a year. (And special collections like Criterion, of course.)
Everything else -- even the good movies -- can be had for under $15, and usually under $10. That's both DVDs and BluRays. In fact, one of the most interesting parts about this phenomenon is that stores are observing less and less of a distinction between these two formats when pricing them.
Sure, there are the exceptions, like the clueless grocery stores that are still selling DVDs of four-year-old movies for $20. My guess is, they're not selling many of them.
So it's very common to walk into a store that sells movies and find a discount shelf with tons of decent titles on it. Just recently I walked out of Target with a $5 BluRay of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Never mind that I had an unopened DVD at home I had obviously never watched -- the $5 BluRay was attractive enough that I now have two T2s. In fact, I've decided I need to stop looking at BluRays at Target, period. I could walk away with several each time if I'm not careful.
But this piece is not about an idiotic chain that violates these BluRay pricing guidelines. It's about the idiotic companies that release the dregs of their back catalogue on BluRay in the first place, when their only possible destination is the bargain bin.
When I went shopping at Fry's on Wednesday to pick up a hard drive for work, I came across such a $5 BluRay wall, and because I can't help myself, I scanned it to see what BluRay I would buy if I were buying one. (For me, this is like the problem gambler who makes gentleman's bets to feed his addiction without letting it destroy him.)
I couldn't find a single BluRay on this wall that I would actually buy, regardless of price. And it's not just because they were bad movies from the past couple years that I wouldn't want to own. It's because they were bad movies from the 1980s and 1990s that I wouldn't want to own.
Which got me thinking: Why the hell would they have brought these movies to BluRay in the first place?
As a sometimes-anal guy and a self-described completist, I understand and philosophically agree with the idea of making all movies, however obscure, available on the physical media platform that's the current standard bearer. (That's in part because I'm old-fashioned and still love physical media.) But from a business perspective, I don't get it at all. When someone said "Yeah, let's do a BluRay press of The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag," did they really expect to make money on it? What buying public out there was frothing at the mouth for a forgotten 1992 comedy starring Peneleope Ann Miller? (I guess I shouldn't diss on Miller -- she does appear in The Artist.)
I haven't actually seen The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag, but I just noticed a hilarious indicator that it might not be a very good movie. The lead "critigasm" on the poster above is "A screwball comedy!" See, the word "screwball" is not just an adjective modifying the word "comedy." "Screwball comedy" is an actual film genre. So this is the equivalent of a poster for Die Hard proudly proclaiming: "An action movie!" Which tells me there weren't many other options for critics praising Betty Lou. (In fact, it's very possible that this critic was not praising the movie, either. He might have been merely listing the film's genre in his review. But it's common practice for a studio's marketing department to excise any piece of any review for any reason, twist it to sound like praise, and add exclamation points at their discretion. Careful what you write, film critics out there.)
But this was just one of a bunch of hilarious titles, a sampling of which I emailed myself in order to refer to them later. A number of them were terrible straight-to-video movies (Sharktopus) or mockbusters (The Day the Earth Stopped) from recent years, but I get those, because at least BluRay existed at the time those movies were released. It's the ones that are genuine relics that made me laugh the most.
Instead of listing them and telling you why each one is a poor fit for BluRay from a profit perspective, I thought it would be more fun to just show you their posters and leave the conclusions up to you. Forthwith:
For the record, I've seen Consenting Adults, The Marrying Man and V.I. Warshawski. If forced to choose between these, The Marrying Man has a funny moment or two, if I remember correctly.
Of course, if forced to choose from the entire wall, I'd have chosen Betsy's Wedding, a 1990 comedy starring Alan Alda and Molly Ringwald. I remember it primarily as the other movie I saw in an illegal double feature the first time I saw Total Recall. But I also remember finding it pretty enjoyable.
So why didn't I include the Betsy's Wedding poster in my list of humorous posters?
Well, like the marketing departments of movie studios, I like to pick and choose only the evidence that actually supports my case.