With the way we consume our information via the Internet, it’s rare that the physical release of a horror title comes as a surprise. If you’re not regularly surfing sites like ours, Dread Central or Shock Till You Drop, you’re probably finding out what’s on the horizon via Blu-Ray.com or even just simply your Facebook feed. So, it’s fun when something you didn’t expect comes out of nowhere.
I didn’t know about these 2 Blu-Ray titles until my friend Brian Saur (of the excellent movie related blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks) posted them on the day before release. Best Buy had the exclusive Blu’s for the 1966 comedy classic THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN and Jack Arnold’s 1953 sci-fi cult flick IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE… in 3D! And not only did the latter come with the 3D version, formatted for a home 3D set-up, but the list price on both were $7.99 each!
I was nervous that if I headed down to Best Buy the next day when they were supposed to hit the shelves, they wouldn’t be there. At this point, they’ve completely truncated their physical home media section. And what little they do have is a complete mess, and there is no rhyme or reason to the way they’re displayed and organized. A few months back, Best Buy had the exclusive Blu-Ray’s for 4 Universal Studios 80’s comedies: THE MONEY PIT, THE BURBS, THE GREAT OUTDOORS and THE DREAM TEAM. I checked two locations, and neither had them. Discs that were exclusive to that one chain, hence giving people an incentive to go there, and none of the stores actually had them in stock. So I waited, forgot about it and 3 months later, their exclusivity window closed and I found them all on Amazon for the same price.
However, with these two, I jumped on their website, selected the store pick-up option, and much to my surprise, got an email the next day that both titles were in stock and available for pick up. Unlike last time, they actually had plenty of copies beyond the two I reserved for myself.
Then a few days later, earlier this week actually, I decided to pop over there to pick up the new 4K restored version of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Compared to online, where I do most of my shopping now, they had it for a bit cheaper. And look, every couple of bucks saved counts. Much to my surprise, I couldn’t find it. You’d think a classic horror title like AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, which just got a brand spanking new release would warrant a spot on a shelf somewhere, no? When I asked about it, they said there “may be one copy out there. The computer says we have one. Do you want me to check the warehouse?” I opted out.
Look – I used to love the act of going to a store every Tuesday afternoon for release day and picking up whatever the latest & greatest titles were. A decade ago, this was a regular ritual that my cousin and I had. We’d meet up for our lunch break, run over to Best Buy, and scan the new release shelf to see what DVD’s we could add to our collection. And come Halloween time? That was the best! They’d usually have a horror section fixed up with dozens of titles marked down to $4.99 for the Halloween season.
Nowadays, I’m relegated to just pre-ordering items on Amazon and waiting for them to arrive at my doorstep on release date. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I do miss being able to go somewhere, scan the shelf for what was new, hold it in my hands, read the packaging and bring it home right then and there. With the exception of THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, I can’t remember the last time I actually did that.
Living in Los Angeles, I have options. There are several used record and video shops in the area, and of course, the mecca of physical media is still Amoeba in the heart of Hollywood (where you’re bound to pay full retail price, unless a used copy happens to be handy), but we all have lives and hectic schedules, so I’ve just gotten used to pre-ordering things on Amazon and not worrying about it again. If it’s a slightly more obscure title like an Arrow release, I’ll try to support spots like Diabolik DVD for those, or Screen Archives when it comes to Twilight Time stuff. (Or Twilight Time direct!)
There are plenty on options online, but what about when even that fails? For example, Warner Brothers recent releases of 3 Stephen King adaptations: SALEM’S LOT, CAT’S EYE and IT. They were scheduled for release on September 20th, just in time for the Halloween season. The day came, there was no listing whatsoever on Amazon, except for a $42 dollar version of IT that came with a t-shirt. (Side-note: does anyone actually buy these versions of Blu-Rays? The ones that come with shirts?) For a bit there, it looked like the only place to actually get them was from the WBshop.com website. The fine fiends over at Diabolik DVD were able to offer a handful of copies of SALEM’S LOT, which swiftly sold out. Brief searches online only netted results for places like Best Buy and Barnes & Noble.
I had several friends attempt to order from both, and then waited on shipping notices that never came. My friend Joe physically went to a Best Buy to ask if they had them, and the clerk that helped him looked it up in their system and informed him that not a single copy of any of those titles had sold yet from any Best Buy location, meaning even thought they’re listed for sale on their site, they never got them. It took several weeks, but now I’m finally started to see people get their copies in the mail, 3 weeks after initial retail release. And surprisingly, Amazon now lists all 3 titles with a release date of October 18th mentioned. If these will come in and actually ship on that date is to be determined, but the above woes got me thinking.
Where the hell do you buy Blu-Ray’s these days? Do people still actively hit up retailers like Best Buy every Tuesday? Or is it only when die-hards like me that hear they have an exclusive there? Also, the only titles that Best Buy or Walmart or Target will stock are the super ginormous Hollywood Blockbusters titles like the new GHOSTBUSTERS or BATMAN VS SUPERMAN.
The problem with ordering online is that is still takes a few days to arrive. One time, I had remembered last minute that I was going to a party and wanted to gift someone with a copy of THE CROW. I went to Target, then Best Buy, then Walmart, and then a few more little used video stores before finally landing a copy at Amoeba. THE CROW, a huge pop culture phenomenon movie that grossed over $50 million dollars at the box office and spawned several sequels and a TV series, and it took me 5 stores before I could find one copy!
So for those of you that still collect physical Blu-Ray media like myself, is online shopping our only option?
Well, until they invent the 3D microchip that gets embedded into our brain and allows us to watch movies just by closing our eyes, I guess so!