Friday, March 29, 2013

Limited-Edition Hounds Are A-Holes

Dear readers, you may or may not be familiar with a certain type of subculture among "collectors" that engages in an activity I find to be particularly loathsome.

Are you familiar with the idea of limited-edition releases?  I am referring here to companies that offer only a pre-defined number of a certain type of product; the number is set and announced in advance.  For example, there was recently a limited-edition Blu-ray of John Carpenter's Christine released by the specialty label Twilight Time.  They made 3000 copies, and only 3000 copies, and the Blu-ray sold for $30.




All 3000 copies evidently sold out within about seven hours.  Yours truly was lucky enough to snag a copy.

A decent number of copies were obviously sold to people who purchased them strictly so that they could then turn around and flip them at a profit.

As I type this, there are at least 35 copies up for sale on eBay, most of them with bids currently approaching (or, in some cases, well over) $100.

I would be willing to bet that every single one of these is a copy purchased by someone who purchased it ONLY so it could then be resold at a massive profit.

I find this to be utterly despicable behavior, and it is a persistent problem with limited-edition releases of this nature.  It isn't a new problem, and since the people perpetuating it -- both sellers and buyers -- are clearly happy to continue the problem it's one that is in no danger of going away.

That fact, and the fact that the people doing it have every right to do what they are doing, does not change another fact: that the activity is loathsome.  It's not illegal to drop a deuce in a public toilet and then not flush it, but people do that all the time, too; sometimes, they even drop the deuce not so much in the toilet as in it, on it, and around it.  It isn't illegal, but it's certainly despicable.

Here's the thing.  Every time one of the people who purchases a copy (or more) of a limited-edition -- be it a movie, a book, a soundtrack, or whatever else receives such releases -- with the express purpose of reselling it at a profit, that's one (or more) fans who are being deprived of being able to get a copy for themselves.  Or, if they choose to purchase a copy from a reseller at an inflated price, that's a fan who is being taken advantage of.

It isn't rocket science to understand that.

My point is this: if you, dear reader, are one of the scumbags who engages in that type of behavior, I'd like to cordially invite you to take a few moments and ask yourself if the world might not be a better place if you stopped doing what you do.  You're sure to answer "no," and that's your right.  But the fact is, you are either screwing fans out of things they love, or you are taking advantage of their weakness to scoop money out of their wallets, money that you did absolutely nothing to earn.  You might respond that you are merely providing a service.  You are not, as there would be no need for the "service" to exist if people like you were scooping up multiple copies of these limited releases.

In other words,



14 comments:

  1. So what made the limited so special?

    And what's wrong with selling it? The problem is the limited number produced. . . right?

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    1. There's nothing wrong with selling it.

      There is a LOT wrong with buying an extra copy specifically so you can sell it at a profit. This is a phenomenon that is specific only to limited-edition releases. For example, if you decide to scoop up a hundred copies of a comic book's first issue in the hopes that it will someday prove to be valuable, then that is fine by me; that comic book is a mass-produced item, and you doing so isn't going to prevent anyone who wants one from getting a copy. The publisher will just print more.

      No, this is a thing that exists only in certain specialized markets.

      And yes, the number produced is a HUGE part of the problem.

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  2. I love that Danse Macabre PSA.

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    1. Yeah, I was pretty pleased by that. Fun with Picasa!

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  3. I reject limited edition items on principle. First, these companies create a false scarcity by limiting the items produced, hinting at a profitable after-market for collectors or resellers. Second, and most irritating--to me, anyway--there is more than a whiff of elitism behind the marketing of limited edition products. These items--by design--will be enjoyed only by a select few.

    I'll admit it, I was tempted by the limited edition IT that came out a couple of years ago, mostly because I wanted to read the new afterword by SK. In the end, it wasn't worth it, for the reasons delineated above. It's too bad authors participate in these projects. Don't they realize they are accessories to the price-gouging that happens online? Better to make any special or new content available to all as, say, a Kindle Single.

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    1. I agree with you, Robert; which, I have to confess, makes me a hypocrite, seeing as how I buy these things occasionally.

      From the authors' point of view, I think maybe they see themselves as supporting other authors. If, for example, Stephen King or Joe Hill or some other writer whose work sells really well decides to allow Cemetery Dance or Subterranean Press or one of the other specialty houses to print something of theirs, then it is a certainty that that will make money for those presses. The presses can -- and do -- then use those profits to print books by other authors whose work is less certain to sell well.

      So from that point of view, I get it. But yes, there is no doubt whatsoever that it leads to one group of collectors -- or "collectors" (they're actually just speculators) -- taking advantage of another group. It's sad, despicable behavior, and I'm afraid it's not going away.

      Which means that by not supporting the system, you are doing a good thing, Robert.

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    2. By the way, for the record, I never -- NEVER -- purchase one of these things at a mark-up. I buy them when they're new, if I can; but you will never catch me shelling out $200 for a Blu-ray someone else paid $30 for. I'll be damned before I give some jackass money like that.

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  4. Well, the real truth is, if blame's gotta be set somewhere, it might as well be at the feet of two things, the advent of DVD extra features and the blockbuster, though to be fair, when it's spelled out you're still left scratching your head and asking why that should make a difference, and to be even more fair, I don't quite get it either.

    I arrived on the scene in 84, which was at least five good years before the blockbuster mentality really began to take hold in hollywood, and my memories of the earliest films I saw contain the usual suspects (i.e. the "original" Return of the Jedi, Back to the Future etc.) the rest of that majority consisted of golden age hollywood films like a 1930s version of Treasure Island and Huck Finn or An American Tail, or Marx Brothers comedies.

    So while, yeah, there was some spectacle even back then, a lot of it was tempered by genuine stories being told, which is why I really don't get why everyone flocks to mindless junk food like Rise of the Guardians.

    It's all spectacle and not really what I'd qualify as a story, and yet i think I just realized WHY people buy limited edition DVD's, whether or not they like modern films, I'm going to say a lot of the audience is very much into film MAKING, even if its just as a process. The problem is, they may be so enamored of making movies and want to know all they can about it off of DVD extras, that they are again in danger of tossing quality over, in favor of quantity. I don't know, that's just my guess.

    ChrisC

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  5. Bryant,

    Thank you for pointing this out. Over the last holiday season, I made the leap to Blu-Ray, and became instantly jaded. So much so, in fact, that I spent about two months obsessively frequenting a Second-Spin in Denver, where I ended up trading about 400 DVDs for 200 BDs. I utterly transformed my cinema library, including my Stephen King shelf. So – when I saw that Christine was about to be released in a limited edition of 3,000 copies, and further, that it had already SOLD OUT, and even further, that people were already offering it for about $100 on eBay, I was FURIOUS. And yet, I do want the Blu-Ray version of this very badly. To get it, I see no choice but to eventually cave and shell out the dough to one of these assholes.

    What is the thinking over a Twilight Time? They would obviously make a LOT more money selling 30,000 (or 300,000) BDs of 'Christine' than just 3,000. Why should they feed a secondary market? (I think they did the same thing on the film 'As Good As it Gets', another BD I am coveting.)

    Sigh. Sorry. Just had to rant.

    So, how does your Blu-ray of Christine look anyway? Is it beautiful?

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    1. It looks pretty great. It's a very film-grain heavy image, but personally, I love that look. The sound is excellent, too.

      As for why Twilight Time would market such a tiny run for "Christine," I can only speculate. But here's my guess: they are a boutique distributor, which means that they license their releases from the studios that hold the rights to the movies. In the case of "Christine" (and "As Good As It Gets"), that is Sony. I have no way of knowing what Sony charges Twilight Time for that license, but my guess would be that it comes with a proviso that only X number of units can be printed. That way, Sony retains its option to make its own Blu-rays after the terms of their contract with Twilight Time have ended.

      So from Twilight Time's point of view, they are perhaps doing the best they can (except, I'd guess, on the subject of capping the number of units that each individual buyer can purchase). From Sony's point of view, they are making money on a film without having to spend any overhead on physical production; and they are also, maybe, doing it to test the waters and see if certain titles will prove to be popular enough to warrant later mass-market release.

      That is speculation on my part, but semi-informed speculation. If that's how it actually works, then I can see how it's a good idea, from a business point of view, for all parties involved.

      Except, of course, for the customers/fans who get burned in the process. And some of them will decide to simply pay $175 for the Blu-ray on the secondary market, sure. Others will decide to download a 16GB Blu-ray rip from The Pirate Bay and call it a day. It's going to look just as good; it's going to sound just as good. It won't have a case to sit in, but it won't have necessitated shelling out a couple hundred bucks to a carpetbagger, either.

      The problem is only going to get worse, I'm afraid. I'm certainly under no illusion that my little rant here will have the slightest impact on that.

      On a more positive note: Andy, I am instantly jealous of your Blu-ray collection. So for, I've upgraded very few of my King titles. I've only got the remake of "Children of the Corn," which is dreadful, and the second season of "Haven," which is less dreadful but still kinda dreadful. I really need to step it up!

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    2. Many thanks for scanning/uploading that cover! Now I can proudly display my "disc only" version of the Christine Blu-ray on my John Carpenter Blu-ray shelf. I personally really like Twilight Time, because movies like Christine and The Fury etc... might never have released to the Public in HD otherwise. While I'm sure that some of the titles they release would sell in higher quantities than the limited 3000 print run, others as you can see don't even sell that much. Still, it bums me out too when I missed out on grabbing a title before it sells out... ala Fright Night which is in the $200-300 range on eBay. Ugh! I keep an eye on all Twilight Time releases now so that I make sure I get any movie that I'm really interested in.

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    3. I think there is no question that Twilight Time is doing fans a great service by releasing some of the titles they release. And just in case I didn't make it clear in the post, let me make it clear now: I have no problem with what they do. None whatsoever. I wish their print runs were higher, but I have no doubt that there are valid reasons for why they aren't.

      Instead, my only problem is with the speculators who take advantage of the system for their own gain. There aren't a lot of them, but they definitely exist, and I think they are all doing a reprehensible thing.

      A lot of people disagree with me on that subject, though, and it's been known to turn me into an asshole. I've been burned on a few limiteds, too, and it probably shows.

      In any case, you are more than welcome for the scans. Thanks for reading!

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  6. This is sort of unrelated, however, here's that Guy with the Glasses on Roger Ebert:

    http://blip.tv/nostalgiacritic/nostalgia-critic-farewell-to-roger-ebert-6564382

    ChrisC

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    1. I didn't always agree with Ebert, but even when I thought he was dead wrong, he entertained me. He and Siskel (and Gene Shalit) were probably the guys most responsible for introducing me to the idea that movies could be something worth THINKING about; as such, he had a fairly large impact on my life.

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