Box Sets, Distribution Rights, and Out of Print DVDs.

An Editorial by Andy Harmon

     If you’ve ever listened to an episode of our show then you would know that I am a movie collector. I have so many movies that I’m really beginning to wonder if I’ll ever be able to watch them all. Or if I would even WANT to watch them all. Do I really want to watch a movie called Bloodbeast? Ok, fine. You got me. I totally do.

     To get back on track, a lot of the movies I have come in box sets. I have box sets for Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, James Bond, The Mighty Ducks, Jurassic Park, Planet of the Apes, Saw, Alfred Hitchcock Essential Collection, The Universal Monsters, and many others. I love them. Sometimes the set is just a Blu-ray/DVD case (like in the case of the Saw series), other times its a box with larger cases holding the discs (like the James Bond collection) and other times it is an honest to goodness box with each movie in its own individual case (like the Planet of the Apes series). Depending on the complexity of the box there might be a small booklet, a separate disc containing extra special features, or maybe different cuts of the same movie. My Dawn of the Dead box set has 3 cuts of the film, a special features disc, AND a comic book all presented in a beautifully constructed box.

     In addition to the extras that can come in the box, a box set can be a good way to buy all of the movies in a series for cheaper than you could normally. The James Bond Box Set is a good example of this. There are 24 movies in the James Bond franchise (not counting the non-Eon releases) so collecting them all can be a pretty daunting task, and an expensive one if you bought each movie on its own. Buying the basic box set, each movies was roughly about 3 bucks. Not too shabby.

     However, being a movie collector and a box set buyer can have it annoyances. I am a huge Godzilla fan, but you may have noticed that I didn’t mention Godzilla in my box set discussion. This is because, while there are a couple of partial Godzilla box sets, there is not one complete box set of all the movies. Why? Two words: Distribution Rights. You see, a movie released in theaters might be distributed by a different company when it is released. This is especially true for foreign films. In some cases every movie in the franchise has their American distribution rights owned by the same company. For example, every Eon released James Bond film is owned by MGM which is why they can release a box set containing all the films. The same cannot be said for the Godzilla series.

     The American distribution rights for the Godzilla series are a mess, plain and simple. The rights to these movies are divided among nine (NINE!) different companies. This wouldn’t be so bad if these companies each held a different era of Godzilla but this isn’t the case either. Currently Sony owns all of the Millennium Godzilla films (1999-2004), rights to Shin Godzilla, most of the Heisei series (1984-1995), and two of the Showa series films (1954-1975). Remember that last bit, it will be important later. Sony HAS released mediocre box sets of the films they have rights to, but unless you live in Japan, you will likely never see a full box set release of all the Godzilla films.

     The same issues pop up for Hammer Studio’s Dracula and Frankenstein series. These films are owned by companies such as Universal, Turner, and Warner Brothers. Once again, these films are released in box sets by these companies, but they may only have 4 of the films as is the case with the Warner Brothers owned films.

     As annoying as this can be, nothing is worse than when a DVD or a Blu ray goes out of print. In case you are unaware, in some cases a film will no longer be made available for purchase from the distribution company. In this case, it becomes extremely difficult to get your hands on a copy without paying an obscene amount of money. The Blu ray of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive is currently out of print and can go for over $100 on eBay. Likewise, the two Showa series films that Sony owns have been out of print for years and together cost around 200 dollars for just TWO DVDs. Because of this, it is really difficult to get all of the films in a series from a foreign country.

     Despite the issues, or maybe because of them, the hunt for DVDs is always interesting and can lead you to uncover a treasure trove of films, directors, and actors you never knew about. Who knows, your favorite movie might be something you haven’t even found yet.

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