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View Full Version : What keeps some movies from being released on DVD?


Emilio Lizardo
11-14-2006, 11:12 AM
There have been a number of threads about movies that are not available on DVD (here's a recent one (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=395022)) which has me wondering: why are these movies NOT available on DVD. In the case of many older movies, perhaps the original footage is no longer available or is damaged. But what about newer ones? Two movies I would love to have on DVD are At Play in the Fields of the Lord (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101373/) and Pass the Ammo (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095832/). Both are fairly recent ('91 and '88, respectively) and both feature mainstream casts. What keeps the studio from releasing them on DVD? Is it usually strictly a financial decision or are there other factors involved?

RealityChuck
11-14-2006, 11:30 AM
The most common causes are that the studio doesn't think there's enough of a market to make it profitable. There are costs involved in making a DVD, and sometimes they just don't think it's worth the effort.

There could also be rights issues. The owner may argue that the contract never gave permission for a DVD (even if it grants VCR permission -- they are different media), or that the right reverted, etc. and it's not worth it for the studio to risk the court time and money if the movie has a limited market.

Max Torque
11-14-2006, 12:52 PM
With TV shows and some older movies, very often one issue is music.

Back when there was no home video market, movie distributors didn't take pains to secure the rights to the songs used in movies for their home video release, because there was no such thing. So, releasing the movie today on home video means either negotiating for the rights for a video release, substituting another song, or cutting out the song entirely. All of those cost time and money, and if there's no guaranteed return, they just won't bother.

Today, it's become pretty much the industry standard that, when a studio purchases the rights for music to be used in a movie, they also negotiate up front for the rights for the movie's eventual inevitable home video release.

The Octagon
11-14-2006, 01:05 PM
Marketing. If there's a major star in it (say, Schwarzenegger), it's a good sell, and even if it didn't do well before, you can bundle it with movies that sold better. If it appealed to a niche audience, you're mostly out of luck.

BTW if anyone says making the menus is the answer, it is definitely not. If you have the proper software, or even freeware, and an eye for design, you could make a good-looking, working DVD menu. It's about as hard as making a powerpoint presentation. The ones that use motion/animation have a higher learning curve, but they also suck IMO.

John DiFool
11-14-2006, 01:13 PM
With TV shows and some older movies, very often one issue is music.

Back when there was no home video market, movie distributors didn't take pains to secure the rights to the songs used in movies for their home video release, because there was no such thing. So, releasing the movie today on home video means either negotiating for the rights for a video release, substituting another song, or cutting out the song entirely. All of those cost time and money, and if there's no guaranteed return, they just won't bother.

Today, it's become pretty much the industry standard that, when a studio purchases the rights for music to be used in a movie, they also negotiate up front for the rights for the movie's eventual inevitable home video release.

That was a problem with the release of Tour of Duty on DVD: they didn't
have the rights to the Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black" (and a number of other 60's
songs) so it got released with some (from what I gather) very bland treacle instead.

Yes it's a series and not a movie but the point holds.

cbawlmer
11-14-2006, 03:11 PM
Rights issues tie up a lot of movies because so many releasing companies have gone bankrupt and/or had the ownership of their movies change hands. Sometimes that can complicate things, and music rights gum up the works even more.

Another reason some films aren't released is because a good enough print can't be found or they don't have the budget to fully restore it. Sometimes the only remaining prints are full-frame TV prints, and many of those are edited for TV standards. For some time the film Near Dark (from 1987 -- it's not just old movies that are affected) was thought to be essentially "lost" because no useful prints of the film were known. It was on VHS, but that was it. Eventually a good print turned up and a DVD was struck.

The 1998 DVD release of Silverado is inferior to later versions because the whole first reel had gone pink and vinegary. They actually released it that way, but I guess later on they found a better copy of that reel or did a lot of restoration work to make it look good.

Troy McClure SF
11-14-2006, 04:05 PM
they didn't
have the rights to the Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black" (and a number of other 60's
songs) so it got released with some (from what I gather) very bland treacle instead.

A more annoying instance of this is Waynes World, in which Wayne begins playing the guitar at the music shop, and the clerk stops him and points at the "No Stairway" sign on the wall. The joke was much funnier when Wayne was... y'know... playing Stairway, and not the generic riff they were forced to use in home release.

Freaks and Geeks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freaks_and_Geeks_%28soundtrack%29) also had a rough time with their soundtrack.

Autumn Almanac
11-14-2006, 04:59 PM
With TV shows and some older movies, very often one issue is music.
This was apparently the problem holding up the early seasons of Charmed, which were delayed for years while they assembled the rights to the various songs used.

cbawlmer
11-14-2006, 04:59 PM
Yeah, soundtrack changes on DVDs are legion. It was a problem back in the VHS days too. Fast Times at Ridgemont High was a victim of this, though I believe the original tunes were restored to the fabulous DVD that came out a few years back.

A number of TV series have not been released on DVD because replacing the music would ruin the effect of the show and buying the rights would be cost prohibitive. WKRP and The Wonder Years come to mind. Miami Vice was held up for years over those issues, but they finally worked out deals to release the show with its soundtrack intact.