my two cents 1000

Paramount Has a Blu-ray Problem

August 28, 2013 - 3:15 pm   |   By 

All right Bits readers – this post I’ve wrestled with all night and all morning as well.

Yesterday afternoon, I received a Blu-ray review copy of Paramount’s Star Trek Into Darkness.  As regular readers will probably know, I actually liked the film.  But when it was finally announced for Blu-ray release, I was surprised at the list of bonus content in the press release, specifically the lack thereof – just seven featurettes.  I quickly sent an e-mail to the studio PR people, asking if this was indeed the complete list of bonus content, and was told that it was.  But somehow, I guess I just didn’t believe it.  So somehow, I was still excited to see and review the disc.  [Read on here...]

Well, I’ve now seen it.  And I’ve now reviewed it for The Bits.

Yes… the seven featurettes listed in the press release are basically everything you get on the disc, aside from the usual DVD copy, Digital Copy, UltraViolet copy, Xerox copy and what not.  The featurettes amount to about 42 minutes of EPK-style behind the scenes material.  There’s no commentary, no deleted scenes, no trailers… which would be bad enough.

Except…

It turns out that more extras were created for this release – more featurettes and even an audio commentary with director J.J. Abrams and members of his crew.  None of it is available on the wide release Blu-ray or Blu-ray 3D SKUs.  The commentary can only be found as an iTunes “extra” download.  And those extra featurettes?  Some are on a Target bonus disc.  Some are on a Best Buy bonus disc.  And some are only available via CinemaNow and VUDU downloads.

That’s right: More than half of the special features created for Star Trek Into Darkness were used by Paramount’s marketing team as retailer exclusives.

You know how I found out?  Readers told me.  Several readers e-mailed me talking about the iTunes commentary and something about its shifting aspect ratios, and all I could think was: “Wait, there’s a freakin' audio commentary somewhere… and it’s not on the Blu-ray?!

[Late Update: Based on the German Blu-ray SKUs, it now appears that the list of missing content on the U.S. wide-release Blu-rays includes 5 more featurettes (The Journey Continues... Again, Rebuilding the Enterprise, Full of Wrath, Kirk & Spock and Visual Preferences), plus the commentary with J.J. Abrams and the crew and a theatrical trailer.  The featurettes and trailer are likely what’s on the Bonus Discs at Target and Best Buy and the CinemaNow downloads (Best Buy U.S. appears to have its content via CinemaNow download while the same content is on a Bonus Disc in Canada), and the commentary is obviously with iTunes.  What's more, it now appears that each retailer (Target and Best Buy) has 30 minutes of exclusive content which, in addition to the 42 minutes available on all versions, means the grand total of all unique content is 100 minutes, not including the 2-hour commentary on iTunes.  THAT is damned irritating.  We’ll keep updating this as we confirm.  Thanks to Bits reader Peter H. for the German info.]

Now… I’m sure this plan looked great from a studio marketing standpoint.  “Let’s do something exciting to make our retail partners feel special.”  But how about doing something to make your customers feel special?  Look, I get the occasional exclusive Bonus Disc on catalog titles.  And packaging exclusives are a whole other story – people actually dig the exclusive Steelbook cases or the swag version with a bonus statuette or an action figure and whatnot.  But taking fully half or more of the disc-based special features created for a major Blu-ray release and casting them to the winds as retailer exclusives, thus forcing your customers to go on an expensive scavenger hunt – if they even know about the exclusives at all – is, I’m sorry, absolutely outrageous.

It’s a terrible way to treat your consumers, who are sometimes spending $30 or more for a Blu-ray, expecting to get a little genuine value for their money.  And no, six different versions of the exact same movie isn’t value.  If you’re a serious Blu-ray enthusiast – or for that matter a Star Trek fan of any kind – all you care about when you buy a Blu-ray is getting the movie in pristine quality with lots of extras.  Though its A/V quality is exceptional, in all other respects the Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray is an insult.

[I’m not even going to get into the fact that Paramount’s current Blu-ray remasters of many of the original Trek films – except for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – are properly terrible, not to mention the fact that they have yet to show any interest whatsoever in releasing the director’s cuts of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II or Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country on Blu-ray as fans have long been waiting for.  Paramount doesn’t just have a Blu-ray problem... they have a pretty significant Star Trek problem too.]

Seriously, if Paramount is going to treat its Blu-ray customers like this, they should just get out of the business altogether.   Or better yet, farm all their titles – not just the catalog titles – out to third party licensees who will treat these films and Blu-ray customers in general with greater care and respect.

Frankly, in this case the studio should create a new bonus disc containing the iTunes commentary and all the extras they split up in their insane marketing plan and made it available for free to every single person who buys any version of this film on Blu-ray.  I doubt they’ll do it, but they sure as hell should.

I’ll tell you this much: Outside of the Paramount catalog titles, which Warner Bros is currently doing a very nice job on, I would not buy another Paramount Blu-ray release of any title until they stop taking advantage of their customers like this.  Not one.  World War Z, I’m looking at you.  ‘Cause I’ll bet you a dollar they’re doing the exact same thing on that title and on other upcoming new release Blu-rays too.

It’s outrageous.

Anyway, here’s the review.  Enjoy.  Discuss.

By the way, we’ve also posted Russell Hammond’s weekly Release Dates & Artwork update today with all the latest cover art and Amzon.com pre-order links.

Now I’m taking the rest of the day off, so this irritating stupidity doesn’t give me a stroke.  Gah!

- Bill Hunt

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