2010 home entertainment preview: not what you will be watching but how
The future for home video in 2010 is taking shape
and as 2009 winds down, ComicMix, like everyone else, is looking ahead. The VHS
tape is gone, replaced by DVD and that too is now quickly getting replaced by
the Blu-ray. The Digital Entertainment Group says Blu-ray Disc set-top player
sales grew 112 percent over the same period last year. Blu-ray devices are at
the top of many consumers’ holiday wish lists this year are projected to be in
15 million U.S. homes by the end of this year.
With players now as cheap as $150, the penetration rate is
skyrocketing and the studios are cognizant of this. They also know that people
are reluctant to pay more for Blu-ray discs to replace their standard DVDs so
these new discs are coming in fancier packages and with lots of extras.
One of the key differences between standard DVD and Blu-ray
is that the BD Live function allows studios to continue offering fresh content
even after the disc goes on sale. McG, for example, did a live screening of Terminator Salvation with questions from viewers. As more filmmakers figure out
how to gain maximum mileage from this direct communications, it will keep the
Blu-ray more vital.
Over the past year, Walt Disney has been collecting their
films in two and three packs. Like most studios these days, you get the DVD and
a digital copy presuming you wish to download the film to watch on your device
of choice. Disney then added the Blu-ray, DVD, and digital disc to form the
mega set, so there’s just one version to sell to one and all – of course,
up-priced so the profits are fatter.
This past week, Warner Home Video made a similar decision, announcing that all new theatrical releases will now come in the Combo Pack format. They’re billing it as “at no additional cost” but that’s if you buy the Blu-ray version to begin with. Those wishing to maintain their standard DVD libraries may complain bitterly about paying more for a disc or two they don’t desire.
Another announce from Warner also indicated that Double Features on Blu-ray will be forthcoming. While this sounds lovely, it’s little different than the double or triple features we’ve been buying on tape, DVD and now Blu-ray. After all, MGM emptied their vaults for 13 of these sets, which we talked about recently. Four films, minimal extras, and affordably priced makes these very attractive and may even expose fans to lesser known works by their favorite stars.
Warner will kick off their Double Features, priced at $24.98, beginning February 23. To launch this line, they’re bringing out the heavy artillery led, once more, by Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry & Magnum Force). Others in the first wave include Analyze This & Analyze That, Presumed Innocent/Frantic, Miss Congeniality 1 & 2, and Grumpy Old Men/Grumpier Old Men.
Meanwhile, Universal announced that at much the same time, they’re competing by offering the Blu-ray and standard DVD versions on the same disc, one per side. That will certainly save on space, but again, people are already complaining, as seen in our comments section, that the studio will be charging the higher Blu-ray price.
All of this revised packaging is to spur a static home video field, which is being pounded on all fronts from Netflix (which has amped up its own streaming rentals for properly equipped systems) to the Red Box rentals which has certainly helped seal the fate of Hollywood Video and possibly even Blockbuster.
Everyone says the future will not be in discs to own, but instead, on demand and downloadable entertainment so people can watch on PS3s, televisions, computers, and cell phones. One nifty bit of technology being explored is the ability to have a virtual library that will allow you to watch on one device, pause, and continue watching on another.
On the one hand, I can certainly see this as a nice way to save on shelf space and allow people to watch whatever they want, whenever they want it, and on their choice of device. Yet, so many of us are collectors. We want the complete run of a film, book series or comic line; we want to complain about not having room for it all. We want to be able to surprise ourselves, finding a forgotten gem amidst the clutter. All of that vanishes when you can point, click and watch. Additionally, some people like the fancy packaging such as the complete M*A*S*H series or the more recent Wizard of Oz set. The other thing we’re likely to lose are the extras, the Easter Eggs, and other bits and pieces that make owning the films a special experience. Sure, downloading and watching Lord of the Rings is wonderful (coming to Blu-ray in April!) but all those hours of background material makes for a richer experience.
As a result, we could be evolving to a day when the disc is the high-priced collector’s item while everyone else buys their video and music online. It could dramatically alter the way we entertain ourselves and certainly limits our ability to commune over the release of something big. Timeshifting television has already killed the water cooler conversation and now the forthcoming methods of watching, listening, and even reading will further splinter the mass culture. Imagine a day when the diehards rush to buy the new Stephen King novel while a sizeable portion wait six months for the eBook, and those frugal few then wait months more to get the paperback.
Now imagine a time when we see the film in the theatre and then can download the film four months later. Collector’s can expect the physical disc with extras, say, six months after release. It totally alters the impact of a movie and our ability to chat freely about it. The passion over Spoiler Warnings, already at a ridiculous pitch, will likely increase because of these changes.
2010 is therefore looking as a transitional year as we begin to see DVDs fade and Blu-rays reign supreme. How we get our entertainment, how we pay for it, and how we experience it will continue to evolve at a dizzying rate. So, rest up this week and brace yourself for a fevered year in home entertainment.