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Catalog Resurgence?

16 Jun, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold

One of the most common refrains in home entertainment circles is that among our industry's many maladies is a dramatic slump in catalog sales. It's been going on for several years in the DVD arena, and has been attributed largely to the fact that most so-called "saleable" older movies were released on DVD years ago, so for the typical collector there's nothing left to buy. The sagging economy has only made matters worse, and now we're seeing valiant efforts by studios to release classic films on Blu-ray Disc also met with consumer indifference.

And make no mistake: studios are cranking out an admirable stream of great old movies on Blu-ray Disc, from How the West Was Won and Woodstock to more contemporary classics such as The ShiningForrest Gump and Ghostbusters.

Sales, so far, have been marginal, but I sincerely believe we're in for a turnaround, and here's why.

There's the quality issue — do old movies really look better in high-definition? — that has led to some hesitation among Blu-ray owners, but that's becoming less and less of a factor, as the consensus is a resounding "Yes." Check out some of the forums and chat groups — there's a growing chorus of fans who say just about any old movie looks better on Blu-ray, simply because old movies were shot on film, which has a higher resolution than even modern HD cameras.

As one recent post said: "Basically you can get the catalog films that have been released on BD with no worry. It'll look as good if not better than when you or your parent/s saw it in theaters."

With the quality issue settled, then, it becomes more a question of need — and whether or not that need supersedes our growing propensity to pinch pennies.

Ultimately, it will. I have a friend who pulled out a copy of Monster, to watch again. The case, he said, has gotten shabby (my friend's DVD collection was moved several times and spent a few months in the garage during a family room remodel) and the disc has several scratches. It still plays OK, but he likes the movie so much he doesn't want to risk future disappointment and wants to buy a new copy. His first question to me: "Is it available on Blu-ray?" I told him it's coming out on Blu-ray Sept. 1 and he was ecstatic, saying he'll surely pick it up.

Another friend, who loves uniformity, now has several dozen Blu-ray Discs sprinkled among a library of some 1,000 movies. "When I put a Blu-ray Disc back on the shelf and pull out a DVD, it feels like a VHS cassette," he said. "Blu-ray looks better on the screen, but it also looks better on the shelf."

Let's all keep our fingers crossed my scenario holds true. Our business could use some good news.

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