ET SPECIAL EDITION – MY 2 CENTS

I am FUMING with righteous indignation!
I am superfly TNT – The guns of the Navarone

I am so fed up with all of this ET, studio greed and disdain for the customer B.S.?

10 weeks availability?… Original version only on the ‘special’ 70 dollar package?

Well here’s my 2 cents on the whole kerfuffle…

A magnificent fiasco, that could only be brewed up in the dank pits of Hollywood’s greed factories, has a once-classic film looking at an uncertain future. When Universal studios first announced a 2002 theatrical re-release of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, many fans were overjoyed. Once details on ‘retouches’ and CGI noodling were released, fans became skeptical and wary. When the film hit theatres, there was a mixed response, ranging from outraged to indifferent, few thought the revisions and touch-ups had any positive effect. Box office returns were not as stellar as Universal had hoped. Of course they blamed this on everything but their needless reworking and poor public relations work.

Flash forward to about two months ago, when Universal announced the DVD release. First they announced that the original 1982 version would NOT be included in any form on either the 2-disc or 3-disc packages that were being planned. After a public outcry, Universal amended that to include the original film on the 3-disc set albeit with an inflated price tag. Tongues wagged. Then came the announcement that both DVD sets would be available for only ten weeks – from October 22 to December 31.

There was an immediate and very negative response to this news on the Internet. Universal scaled back their ad campaign, and are still seriously under-promoting the DVD’s and avoiding the issues surrounding their bad marketing ideas. Thankfully, a small amount of understanding comes from The Beard, himself.

A report on DVDREVIEW.COM has a quote from Spielberg saying

“When people buy ‘E.T.’ I want them to know they have the original movie, not just for collectors and aficionados, but for everybody who remembers it and wants to continue remembering it just that way.”

While I am glad that Big Steve feels that way, that hasn’t prevented him from okaying the ten-week availability and moratorium. Ten weeks, during the holidays, and then it will be pulled from shelves. This could start a dangerous trend, where consumers are basically blackmailed into buying frenzies. BUY NOW OR YOU WILL NEVER HAVE IT AGAIN!! I mean, what will become of the Home Video industry if Studios start falsely creating demand by minimizing supply?

They are going to do the same thing to Home Video that the Theatre chains have done to Cinema. It has been proven time and time again that if you bully people into buying, they will just stop buying. With the Theatres, they can easily point to Box Office figures and say that they are making more money than ever before, but the fact is that fewer people are going to fewer films, but paying twice the admission they had to pay five years ago. Having worked in the industry for ten + years, I saw how the chains and the distributors maxed out their potential. With the advent of DVD’s and the fact that it is now almost as expensive to pay to see the film once in the theatre, as it is to purchase it to own on DVD, people WILL stop going to the theatre, which is a disgraceful shame.

About the same time as Box Office revenues started to fall in the 90’s, and ticket prices began climbing, the studios noticed a trend towards Home Video libraries. People were buying more and more VHS tapes when they were available. All of a sudden the floodgates opened and every film ever made was being released to VHS. Now that DVD has proven to be a reliable, durable and cheaper to manufacture replacement, the same thing is happening on DVD. Studios are capitalizing on the completist craze by releasing 2 or 3 or 5 DVD versions of a film. Then Disney began using the moratorium concept to increase demand for their catalogue titles, as they had done on VHS. Now other studios are getting into the fray, and to varying degrees of success and civil unrest.

Many people will be very upset about this ET marketing ploy. To release the film in late fall, obviously to capitalize on Christmas shopping numbers, and then pull the film immediately after the holiday – 1) It proves that the studio is only doing this to make a buck, which will not go over well with fans of a film about old-fashioned values. 2) It puts undue pressure on consumers to purchase a luxury item, and as anyone who’s ever worked sales knows, if you pressure a customer to buy something they want, but don’t need, they will walk every time. 3) The price tag on the sets are so over-inflated that it just adds to the slap in the face of the smarminess of the whole campaign. 4) There has been almost no advertising for this set outside of the web; people will feel even more pressured. And 5) After a very mediocre reception to the theatrical re-release; people may not care enough anymore to bother. Yeah E.T. is a great movie, but is it worth all of this B.S.?

Unfortunately, Universal will make a killing on this DVD – but next time they may not be so lucky. Once people realize that the film was pulled for no apparent reason and marketed to the heavens to pressure them to get it NOW, NOW, NOW… The next time they will just walk past the display and pick up a Disney flick. At least they put an affordable price on the package and market well in advance that the film will only be available for a limited time – which is usually around a year – not a few weeks.

Universal is quickly joining the ranks of out-of-touch and frequently despised studios like WB who’s execs seem to make decisions based entirely on artificially created numbers and test screenings full of 12 year-old focus groups designed to capitalize on a group perceived as having a lot of money and nowhere to spend it.

Well guess what bigshots?!

People like myself and our EYECRAVEDVD readers have a lot more money than a bunch of bubblegummers with Discover cards. Successful and intelligent young professionals that are not getting married and having kids at fourteen. We are the ones buying DVD players, big screen TV’s and Home Theatre systems. When we go shopping, we look for value, not glitz. You want my bucks? Release good films with multi-viewing potential. Don’t short shrift your classic catalogue titles and try to feed me ‘Special Edition’ garbage like SCOOBY DOO or JASON X.

Most of you “Studio Executives” seem to know nothing about film. You don’t have any frame of reference for the jobs you are doing and you don’t have any respect for your customers. House painters slapping a coat of ecru on the walls of the Sistine Chapel.

Luckily for the consumers, DVD houses like KINO INTERNATIONAL and CRITERION will keep producing worthwhile product long after this new wave of Versace suited monkeys bring about the downfall of the big studios.

My 2 cents.

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