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Classic Movies on Blu-ray? You Betcha!

2 Nov, 2010 By: Thomas K. Arnold

One of the more interesting panel discussions at today's Blu-Con 2010 conference in Beverly Hills was the one on marketing classic movies on Blu-ray Disc. Theatrical catalog, you may recall, has taken a precipitous hit these last few years, as the DVD format has matured and studios have pretty much run out of marketable catalog titles to release, and re-release, on disc. There are, after all, only so many times you can get the average consumer to buy the same movie, regardless of how many new extras you put on the disc. This year alone, by some accounts, the theatrical catalog business is off by something like 40%, accounting for the lion's share in the overall decline in DVD sellthrough.

I've felt for some time that theatrical catalog and Blu-ray Disc are an ideal match, with one igniting interest in the other. And with Blu-ray Disc now crossing the 20% penetration mark, according to figures provided at the conference by Pioneer's Andy Parsons, studios are starting to release their marquee catalog titles on Blu-ray Disc, as exemplified by such recent releases as The Sound of Music from 20th Century Fox, The Bridge on the River Kwai by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, The Exorcist and The Maltese Falcon by Warner Home Video and The African Queen by Paramount Home Entertainment.

Panelists spoke of the challenges they face in marketing these films, and agreed the value proposition has to be right--they need to not just clean up the print to the point where the picture, and sound, are virtually perfect, but they also need to unearth more extras to really hook the movie fan.

I happen to believe selling classic movies on Blu-ray Disc will soon get a lot easier. The early adopters who bought into Blu-ray two or three years ago focused on the new hits and recent hits, but at this point they are ready for more. We may not see a full-scale conversion of libraries as we saw when DVD replaced VHS--I think a lot of us have quite a few movies in our homes that cause us to scratch our heads and say to ourselves, "Do I really need this?"--but by the same token we don't want to parse down our collections to just a handful of films.

I speak from personal experience. Four and one-half years after the format was launched, and three years after I brought Blu-ray and high-definition into my home, I am finally dumping most of my DVDs--and the ones I am keeping, I am eager to get rid of as well. Once they come out on Blu-ray Disc, I intend to do so, and it's not just the better picture and sound. It's an emotional thing; those DVDs in their "keep cases" are beginning to look every bit as clunky as my videocassettes did when I began collecting DVDs. I just pulled out a boxed set of 20th Century Fox's "The Omen" movies and replaced it with a slim Blu-ray collection. "Look at how much less space it takes up," I remarked to my oldest son--then thought to myself, "Man, that's the same reaction I had when I got rid of all my VHS tapes."

One hallmark of us collectors is uniformity. And I am at the point where I no longer want bulky DVDs cluttering up my rows of neat little Blu-ray Discs. Think I'm alone? Just you watch. There are a lot of Blu-ray Disc fans out there, and eventually they'll come to the point where they will no longer settle for anything less. They may not repurchase all their movies, but I believe they'll replace enough of them to give our business a significant boost.




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