The fourth quarter so far has seen an unprecedented price sensitivity on the part of consumers -- with a massive Black Friday blowout of under $10 discs, followed by a two-week hangover.
And yet another segment of the home entertainment business is doing surprisingly well: the premium-priced gift-set market, consisting primarily of lavishly packaged multi-disc special editions of popular films, movie collections and “complete series” sets of TV shows.
The prices can run well into the hundreds of dollars -- and yet despite the lingering malaise in the economy and a proliferation, at retail, of catalog DVDs and Blu-ray Discs selling for as little as a buck apiece, these souped-up Cadillacs of packaged media are selling better than ever.
Ron Sanders, president of Warner Home Video, said that last year a premium-priced Dark Knight gift set with a toy Batmobile, with a limited pressing of 35,000 units, took eight weeks to sell out.
"This year, a comparable Dark Knight Rises gift set with a mask, also produced in a limited 35,000-unit run, sold out in a single day," Sanders said.
Indeed, this holiday season Warner Home Video -- pioneer as well as leader in the premium-gift-set game -- reports that the industry is seeing 31 percent of the Blu-ray catalog business driven by high-priced (more than $25) product.
"As a result of this trend, Warner Bros., as part of our 90th anniversary, is focusing on high-priced collections," said Jeff Baker, executive vp and general manager. "Beginning next month, 100-, 50-, and multiple 20-film collections ranging in price from $100 to $500 retail will be available throughout 2013."
Not surprisingly, retailers each year find themselves with a new crop of pricey gift sets, along with repriced, repackaged or sometimes just repromoted sets from earlier years.
One of the most elaborate of the new gift sets released in time for the 2012 holiday shopping season is Warner's Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection, which contains all eight Harry Potter films on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and UltraViolet digital copy in a gorgeous gift box weighing in at nearly 20 pounds. The 31-disc set includes more than 37 hours of special features, including all previously released materials, new-to-disc bonus content and five hours of never-before-seen material on Blu-ray. The set also includes memorabilia such as a “Catalogue of Artefacts,” a cloth map of Hogwarts and the blueprint poster of Hogwarts Castle. The suggested list price: $499.99.
Also new in stores this fourth quarter from Warner is The Dark Knight Trilogy Limited Edition Gift Set, featuring all three of the latest Batman movies on either Blu-ray Disc ($52.99 SRP) or DVD ($38.99 SRP). The set also includes UltraViolet digital copies of the film and a 64-page coffee table book, The Art and Making of The Dark Knight.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is out with the Cinderella Diamond Edition Jewelry Box Set ($89.99 SRP), an elegant six-disc gift set packaged in a special Cinderella jewelry box. There’s a wide array of bonus features, including never‐before‐seen material, interactive family activities, games and more. The set includes the original 1950 animated classic as well as its two sequels, Cinderella 2: Dreams Come True, Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time, on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and digital copy.
From Paramount Home Media Distribution comes Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures ($69.99 SRP, Blu-ray Disc only). The five-disc set includes all four films in the famous adventure franchise, along with seven hours of interviews and featurettes. The two-part documentary On Set With Raiders of the Lost Ark features rarely seen footage from the set of the film and archival interviews, transporting fans back to where the legend began.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has three significant entries in the premium-gift-set sweepstakes. The Universal 100th Anniversary Collection ($349.98 SRP, Blu-ray Disc; $249.98 DVD) contains 25 of the studio’s most celebrated films, including To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sting, Dracula, Jurassic Park, Field of Dreams, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and The Bourne Identity. The set includes an exclusive “100 Years of Universal” 72-page collector’s book chronicling the history of Universal over the last 100 years, as well as a 15-track music CD containing a selection of the most popular music scores from Universal films including Psycho, The Sting, Jaws, E.T. and Out of Africa.
Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection ($159.98 SRP, Blu-ray Disc) features eight of the most iconic horror classics from Universal’s “monster era,” from the 1920s to the 1950s, including Frankenstein, Dracula and Creature from the Black Lagoon. All films have been digitally restored from high-resolution film elements with high-definition picture and sound. The set comes with a 48-page book featuring behind-the-scenes photographs, original posters, correspondence and more.
And then there’s Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection ($299.98, Blu-ray Disc), featuring 15 of the most acclaimed films from legendary director Alfred Hitchcock -- also digitally restored and presented in high-definition. The set includes 13 films previously unavailable on Blu-ray and a collectible 50-page book featuring storyboards, costume sketches, correspondence, photographs and more. The DVD version, which came out in 2005, has 14 movies, including such famous classics as Vertigo, The Birds and Psycho. The new set also contains North by Northwest, through a special arrangement with Warner Bros.
Lionsgate has two new movie gift sets aimed at collectors. Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection ($119.99, Blu-ray Disc only) features eight of the celebrated director’s eclectic and brilliantly violent films -- his breakthrough Reservoir Dogs along with Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Jackie Brown, Death Proof and True Romance -- plus two bonus discs with more than five hours of never-before-seen special features. Also new this holiday season is the Francis Ford Coppola 5-Film Collection ($29.99, Blu-ray Disc only), with One from the Heart, Apocalypse Now, Apocalypse Now Redux, Tetro and The Conversation.
And Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has an elegant 50th anniversary gift set of Lawrence of Arabia ($95.99 SRP, Blu-ray Disc only), a limited-edition four-disc set in an oversize box that comes with a digitally restored director’s cut of the film, hours of bonus content, new and previously released featurettes, a graphic-in-picture track, newsreel footage of the New York premiere and, on the memorabilia side, an authentic 70mm film frame, a soundtrack CD and an 88-page coffee table book.
Twentieth Century Fox and MGM have teamed up to release Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection, a $299.99 SRP, Blu-ray only collection of every Bond film ever made -- except, of course, Skyfall, which is still in theaters -- and more than 130 hours of bonus features, including never-before-seen content from the Bond archives. Nine of the films are new to Blu-ray: Goldeneye, Octopussy, The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice, The Living Daylights, Tomorrow Never Dies, Diamonds are Forever, A View to a Kill and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
On the TV-on-disc front, consumers can take their pick from more than half a dozen new complete-season sets.
Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series, from Sony Pictures ($65.99), features all five seasons of the 1980s crime series on discs.
Desperate Housewives: The Complete Collection, from Walt Disney ($149, DVD only), contains all 179 episodes from eight seasons on 46 discs, packaged in a collectible replica of Mary Alice’s celebrated steamer trunk. An exclusive bonus disc contains additional cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the final season.
House: The Complete Series, from Universal Studios ($149.99, DVD only) has all eight seasons of the compelling medical drama that stars two-time Golden Globe winner Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House, known for his unconventional and misanthropic tactics.
Columbo: The Complete Series, also from Universal ($149.99, DVD only), brings back the iconic 1970s detective series starring Peter Falk as the trenchcoat-wearing Police Lieutenant Columbo, with all 69 episodes from the series’ initial seven-year run along with all 24 TV movies bundled into a 34-disc anthology.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Classic Series Collection, from Lionsgate ($99.98, DVD only), features all 10 seasons of the pizza-eating turtle heroes on 23 discs, packaged in a collectible TMNT Party Van.
Fugitive: Most Wanted Edition -- The Complete Series, from CBS Home Entertainment ($226.99, DVD only), is a 32-disc set containing all four seasons of the 1960s drama, transferred from the original film negatives and audio. Also included is a bonus disc full of special features as well as a soundtrack CD featuring the series’ musical score from composer Pete Rugolo.
JAG: The Complete Series, also from CBS ($359, DVD only), contains all 10 seasons of the Emmy Award-winning TV series in a 56-disc set that also comes with a bonus disc featuring new cast and crew interviews, a one-of-a-kind JAG Challenge Coin and a 40-page JAG manual featuring intel about the actual JAG Corps and military history, character biographies, trivia and fun facts.
Mission Impossible: The Complete Television Series, a third CBS release ($359.99, DVD only), features all seven seasons of the original 1966-1973 series as well as both season of its 1988-1990 reboot. The 56-disc set, packaged in a dynamite-shaped container, also includes several new featurettes, including the two-part “Birth of the Mission” and “Mission Debriefing,” which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the series with archived, extended interviews with stars Peter Graves (Jim Phelps), Barbara Bain (Cinnamon Carter) and Martin Landau (Rollin Hand).
Not to be overlooked is Time Life’s gorgeous Carol Burnett Show compilation ($199.95, DVD only), featuring 50 episodes from the long-running variety series handpicked by Burnett.
And for fans of British fare, Acorn Media this fall has released several of its best-selling series in big value-priced sets, including The Complete Red Green Show: High (Quality)/Quantity Collector’s Set, a $300 (DVD only) collection of 15 seasons and 300 episodes on 50 discs, Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Early Cases Collection, consisting of 45 mysteries in a 13-disc Blu-ray Disc set ($250) or an 18-disc DVD set ($200), and The Duchess of Duke Street Complete Collection -- a 10-disc set with 31 episodes for $80.