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DVD Wrap-Up: Cut Out the Cardboard, Keep the Keepcase

31 Oct, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The packaging front is getting active again. Speculation is rampant that Warner Home Video is getting ready to ditch the loathsome snapper, with its flimsy cardboard cover.

For high-profile new releases like Terminator 3 and The Matrix Reloaded, the studio has already gone over to the plastic “keepcase,” and collectors are hoping special-edition catalog titles will be next on the list — Warner has assembled a marvelous library of spruced-up classics, but, sadly, these “keepers” are still coming out in snappers that just don't hold up the way the all-plastic jobs do.

The real action in packaging, however, is coming in the boxed-set department. Fueled by soaring consumer demand and studio production of “complete season” boxed sets of TV series, multidisc sets are hitting the market at a record clip. And yet the jury's still out on the best way to package these sets.

Most TV series are coming out in foldout cases, typically plastic covered with cardboard. That helps conserve space, but the constant opening and closing leads to wear and tear — a fact that drives collectors like me absolutely batty (I'm going to have to beg Paramount for another “first-season” set of “C.S.I.,” not because there's anything wrong with the discs I already have, but because the clear-plastic cover flap has worn off).

Perhaps in recognition of this, a growing number of multidisc sets are starting to appear in full-size keepcases neatly encased in a cardboard box — truly a “boxed” set, in a literal sense. I've recently received “complete season” sets of “Alias” and “SpongeBob SquarePants,” both handsomely packaged this way, and let me tell you — they're great. Not only does each disc have its own “home,” so to speak, but if someone else wants to watch the series after me — a friend, a neighbor, my wife — they don't have to wait for me to get through the whole thing. A handful of episodes and they can have the first disc while I move on to disc two.

The downside is that the full-size keepcase approach takes up more space — and with DVD collections growing as fast as they are, at least in my home, sooner or later I'm going to have to start cutting back and become more selective in what I bring home — bad news for studios whose continued success depends on maintaining those high buy rates we've seen since DVD's launch nearly eight years ago.

Image Entertainment has the best approach — a compromise, a happy medium. The independent has just issued seasons one and two of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in boxed sets packed with razor-thin plastic keepcases. Each disc still has its own home, but it's more of a condo than a house, taking up less than half as much shelf space than if each disc were in a full-size keepcase.

I've seen some TV sets come in a cardboard variation of this, but that doesn't work for me. Studios, listen up: Plastic is in, cardboard is out. Some of us actually treasure our DVDs, and cardboard simply doesn't hold up.

To me, the Image approach is the way to go — and not just for boxed sets.

Man, if all new releases came in these skinny flat keepcases, I could store twice as many discs in less space than my collection occupies today.

Studio marketers, are you listening?

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