Why are DVD owners getting a raw deal?

Feature Simon Brew 7 Nov 2013 - 06:58

If you opt for the DVD version of a film rather than the Blu-ray, why are you getting less for your money?

If you head to Amazon UK at the moment, The Wolverine is up for pre-order, with a £10 asking price for the DVD, and a £15 tag on the Blu-ray. That's generally been the new release premium between the two, and it's been accepted, for better or worse, that you pay the extra fiver for the picture and sound upgrade that the Blu-ray should and usually does provide.

In more recent times though, if you've not got a Blu-ray player at hand, you're not just getting a weaker presentation of the film though. More and more, it seems that studios are holding back extra features as a Blu-ray bonus. As if the DVD is now the 'entry level' way of buying the film, and you can't have everything else unless you buy the Blu-ray.

The vast majority of film sales still come through the DVD format, and that's understandable. DVD is still omnipresent, Blu-ray a little bit of a luxury. The vast majority of the world's laptops, for instance, have a DVD drive in them, very few have Blu-ray.

Digging into the listing for The Wolverine, if you buy the DVD though, your only extra features are the theatrical cut of the film, and a featurette entitled 'Inspiration - A Ronin's Journey'. On the Blu-ray? An extended cut of the film, an alternate ending, a set tour of X-Man: Days Of Future Past, and a feature called 'The Path Of The Ronin'. DVD owners are missing out on an awful lot there.

It'd be remiss just to pick on one film though. Star Trek Into Darkness didn't have many features on its Blu-ray, but it had none whatsoever on the DVD. The forthcoming Man Of Steel DVD has the 75th anniversary animated short, and a 'Krypton Decoded' featurette. The Blu-ray adds features on 'All Out Action' and 'Strong Characters'. These are just the listed features, we might add. They may yet change by release date.

I'm not quite sure when it become de facto to assume that Blu-ray was the film lover's format and DVD wasn't, but certainly the treatment of big films on DVD suggests that it's now something of a done deal. Gone are the days of big DVDs being released in two disc packs it seems. Now, the DVD is the stack it high sell it cheap option, and the Blu-ray is where the premium is.

It's not strictly a storage issue either. A dual layer DVD holds just shy of 9GB of data, and a dual layer Blu-ray holds 50GB. Inevitably, even after the picture and sound upgrade, the Blu-ray does have spare capacity. But that doesn't mean that the DVD doesn't have some. Did Star Trek Into Darkness' transfer really leave no room on a disc for half an hour of featurettes?

To be fair, there is some logic to assuming that Blu-ray is for those who want the best home entertainment release they can get. But there are reasons that some film fans don't want DVD. Cost for one, the lack of a good screen to make the most of it, being fed up with rebuying films on different formats, a dislike of the politics behind the format... there are lots of reasons why even the most ardent movie buff would resist the call of Blu-ray.

The thing is, they are now being punished for it. We get far less on a full price DVD release than we got five years ago. The 2009 Star Trek reboot, for instance, came with a commentary, gag reel and 'A New Vision' featurette, as well as the film, on disc one of its original release (there was a second disc of goodies, too). So where has material like that gone, and why is it being denied to DVD owners?

Inevitably, there's more margin for studios in Blu-rays, and there are financial advantages to them in getting us to buy a more expensive version of a film. It's such a shame that those who stuck with DVD are collateral damage in the quest to put more cash on the balance sheet. Disc extras are getting short shrift in many quarters already. Sadly, DVD is leading the charge in that respect - and without a good price cut to compensate for it.

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