This series was inspired last week after creating and sharing the info sheet you see on the left. I did for my Disney friends, particularly those tending to aspiring Disney princesses. These Blu-ray titles come in special storybook packaging, meaning the case itself is a Disney read-along storybook, but each would only be available from one retailer. So I shared the infographic to make sure my friends were aware of their options in case they'd prefer these versions to add to their Disney video collection over the standard versions would could be bought from any store or online retailer. Friends voiced their appreciation, some telling me they added the dates on their calendars to make sure they wouldn't miss them.
Then, I realized I could do this for other future retailer exclusives that come out on Blu-ray. I look up this stuff for myself anyway, so why not share it? It would be a great regular feature to write about. So here goes!
But first, a bit of background.
How I Got Blu
I started buying Blu-ray Discs in 2008. That was the year I took the big financial plunge and invested in both a new 37" Samsung HDTV and a PlayStation 3 (PS3). I remember vividly the Christmas season before while out shopping at Best Buy for presents seeing one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies playing on several HDTVs on display inside the store. Those flatscreen demos did their job. They got me intrigued and finally hooked on the notion of upgrading my home entertainment experience from age-old standard definition to high definition. Several weeks of online research uncovering the difference between 420p, 1080i and 1080p (including many visits and much debt owed to Blu-ray.com's FAQ page) plus a call into Chase Visa to request a reduction of my annual percentage rate to further encourage me to charge more $$$ on my Disney Visa (a reduction Chase granted!) paved the way to this silly little habit I now embrace: building my Blu-ray collection.
What To Blu
I ended up visiting two websites a lot during this time, High-Def Digest and Blu-ray.com. Their most important assets were the Blu-ray Disc reviews, and I pored through them often. First I looked for films out on Blu-ray that I was familiar with or had seen. For the few titles out on Blu-ray that I owned on DVD and was willing to upgrade, I traded in my old DVDs at my local FYE for store credit to offset some of the costs to buy them on Blu-ray now. (By the way, this habit of upgrading your DVD copies to Blu-ray is known among Blu-ray enthusiasts as "double-dipping", and we put it out there just to say we're both stupid but passionate about the need to re-buy the better version of something we love. Wait until I post a blog about my years buying and re-buying Star Trek on home video - Sheesh!)
But except for Disney films, which supported the Blu-ray Disc format during the HD format war and thus released a fair amount of their titles on Blu to help the cause, there wasn't a lot of my favorite films out yet on Blu-ray that first year, particularly my genre and geek favorites like Star Trek (Paramount chose to debut the original TV series on HD-DVD first; it didn't come out on Blu-ray until a couple years after) or Star Wars. So I looked at other titles that were fairly unknown or previously unseen by me, those which rated very high by reviewers in their video or picture quality (PQ), because frankly high definition video was the eye candy that I fell in love with. And that is when I learned of the term "blind buy".
Blind Blu Buying
Those who took a chance to watch a movie without ever having seen it before coined the phrase blind buy, that they would blindly select a movie to buy and watch it with the hope that it would turn out to be a good choice, telling on the boards what they thought about the Blu-ray either way. To fill my appetite to regularly use my new PS3 and watch new stuff in HD on my new HDTV that first year I owned it, I ended up doing the same thing, blind buying Blu-ray movies. Some of those early purchases included films and documentaries I'd never seen before like Baraka, How the West Was Won, Band of Brothers, and the documentary series Planet Earth. Because of the feedback from the boards and reviews from the home pages, I chose these almost purely because of the high praise their PQ received. Turned out that I loved these choices, and I was more than pleased to discover that not only was their PQ excellent, but their content overwhelmingly entertaining too!
Limited Blus: The Retailer Exclusives
As the popularity of Blu-ray Disc grew, some U.S. retailers were given the opportunity by studios to offer unique, limited edition versions of more popular titles and make them available only through their chains. These retailers were mainly Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon and for a time FYE aka Sam Goody aka Suncoast Motion Picture Company. And as a collector who enjoys unique packaging and bonus material, I discovered I needed to pay really close attention to what "retailer exclusives" might be offered in addition to the standard versions that every store in the country would sell, because I just might prefer getting one of these retailer exclusives that include an extra bonus disc of material or include a unique action figure or coming a neat new packaging appropriate to the movie than just a plain ol' plastic Blu-ray case. Just like the Disney storybook packaging I discussed at the top of this article.
So whenever there's a new title coming out that I "must buy", I make sure to do some due diligence and see whether any of the store chains listed above are offering their own exclusive. This week, there happens to be a number of retailer exclusives coming out for one popular family film debuting on Blu-ray that may also be worthwhile choices for some early bird Christmas shopping. What a perfect opportunity to showcase retailer exclusives for you!
Amazon's exclusive features a replica of the spaceship from the movie. Press a button on the side and not only does the top split open to reveal where your Blu-ray Discs are located, but a ramp in the bottom half slowly opens to reveal E.T. standing on it. Plus it actually lights up and even plays John Williams' "Flying" theme from the movie. Here's a video of it in action. But if you want to get it, I think it might already be sold out.
SteelBook cases are made of metal with plastic trays fitted inside to hold the discs. They're very popular with collectors, but it's a popularity I don't share. SteelBook is a patented design too, and collectors know that. There've been knockoffs produced that aren't true SteelBooks but similar-looking metal media cases. But the difference only matters to SteelBook fans. Most likely, you don't care a hill of beans or Blus about it either! But if you want your E.T. Blu-ray to come inside an authentic SteelBook case, Target is the only place for you to go.
Best Buy's retailer exclusive of E.T. comes inside a digibook. A digibook is essentially a hardcover book, and the Blu-ray Discs are contained inside, either located on plastic trays mounted on either or both of the front and back inside covers or within specially-designed, reinforced pages. Being a book, a digibook naturally provides the opportunity to include 20-40 or more pages of content with the purchase of your Blu-ray that you nornally couldn't get with just buying it inside a standard plastic Blu-ray case, which might come with an insert if you're lucky. However, some Blu-ray enthusiasts criticize digibooks for being a tad taller than those standard plastic Blu-ray cases, effectively ruining that perfect, even height you achieve when you stand a digibook among your neat row of plastic Blu-ray cases on your shelf. Whatever.
The last retailer exclusive I found for E.T. comes from Walmart. In promotional jargon, it's what's called an "in-pack" because the premium item, in this case a plush toy of E.T., is packed inside of a larger box holding the standard Blu-ray release.
The only retailer exclusive I found for it will be at Target. It will include a "photo booklet," essentially a softcover pamphlet, that will be packaged with the standard Blu-ray Case packaging of the film. The material presented in the photo booklet is taken from an amazing book called Prometheus: The Art of the Film. I first flipped through this book at the San Diego Comic-Con this past summer, and it not only has gorgeous art and photographs surrounding the making of Prometheus, but also a lot of notes and concepts by Scott that further explain what he might have meant in the movie that he didn't necessarily explain in the movie.
Most titles' prices may be discounted significantly the week they go on sale. This is as much to stimulate sales as better a studio's chances of getting to say a week later that "Our (insert movie title here) was the number one selling title last week!" But who cares about that. For any title, a good sale price on week one makes for a good idea to get the best price at all when buying it when it first comes out.
Also note that all of these editions including the standard edition includes the movie on both a Blu-ray Disc and a DVD. So if you don't own a Blu-ray player yet, the studios thought of you (to buy their movies) as well.
This time around, my votes goes to the Best Buy digibook for E.T. and picking up Prometheus at Target. I love digibooks and even generic booklets, way more than SteelBooks and plush toys. And while as a product designer, it would've been great to own the Amazon exclusive, I think that one's simply out of my budget right now even if Amazon would let me place an order for it. Of course, I could always order it from Amazon UK. And theirs includes the digibook that I love. In additional, Amazon UK even has a plussed out retailer exclusive for Prometheus as well. But let's save talking about international Blu-rays for a later time, shall we?
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this helpful. Definitely more news about future Blu-ray retailer exclusives to come!