Why Can't More BluRay's be Like "The Polar Express?"

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I know December isn't until tomorrow, but tonight I decided to start my Christmas movie watching season with "The Polar Express.". Being one of the best 3D films ever made, I of course chose that format to watch it in (and since my therapist has challenged me to look on the positive things in my life, I consider it a blessing to be able to still be able to view this film in 3D).  Unlike most BluRay 3D releases, this set only comes with one disk.  If your BluRay player doesn't detect a 3D TV it informs you of your need for one to view the film in 3D, then switches to a 2D menu so you can watch it without the third dimension.  If the disk senses the 3D TV it will go straight to 3D with the option of switching to 2D if (for some crazy reason) you decide this is how you want to watch the movie.

Oh, and all of the special features are included as well (most of which are in standard definition, but what can you do).  All of this on one disk.  I find this fascinating because this release shows just how pointless all these multiple releases are.  Every 3D movie you buy on BluRay comes on it's own disk.  Usually the movie is all you'll get.  Once in awhile you'll get a trailer for a 3D movie or a commercial recommending you buy a 3D TV (yeah, I know), for the most part, though, all your getting is the movie.  I'm not sure why this is.  Some people who work in the industry tells me it's because giving the 3D version it's own disk gives the manufacturers the space they need to make it look the best the movie can look.  I have no problems with this response.  However, when you watch "The Polar Express" in 3D it looks great.  I mean, it looks demo worthy. 

The thing is, when you compare this to Disney's "A Christmas Carol" (also a 3D motion capture film directed by Robert Zemeckis, ironically enough), both of the disks feature demo worthy presentations. Maybe there's a difference in the sound quality, but it all sounds great as well.  Yet "A Christmas Carol" has it's own disk for the 3D, where "The Polar Express" shares it's 3D with everything else.  I bring this up because it occurred to me: Why can't more studios do this?  Look, if giving the 3D version it's own disk results in a better presentation then I say go for it.  I'm paying lots of money for these disks, so I want them to look and sound as good as they can.  Yet the reality is that studios are starting to cut back on 3D releases because they don't want to pick up the extra costs associated with extra disks for a version that might sell a fraction of the regular version.

If there is a movie where these extra costs don't seem to make financial sense on the outside, then they need to put the 3D version on the same disk as the 2D version.  Really, there is no excuse not to.  We know the studios can do this.  We know it can look great even without the extra space on the disk.  Heck, when Sony released their first BluRay 3D's they all included the 2D version to assure people who didn't have 3D TV's at the time (which was pretty much nobody) that these disks would be future proof.  They would work on their current TV's, you didn't have to upgrade to watch them, but the 3D version was there for when you did.  Somewhere along the line that line of thinking stopped, and I feel it's time to bring it back.  The studios need to insure that if I movie was made with 3D in mind, that there is a way to put the 3D version on disk.

Even if it has to share space with the 2D version and give up some of the quality (of which there is some debate it will), I think most film lovers would prefer to have it at a compromised level than to not have it at all.  Back when there was the big "widescreen debate" going on, studios would have to cater to two types of people: Film lovers who wanted to watch their movies in the format the directors originally filmed them in, and the everyday consumer who didn't like "black bars" and insisted the image be cropped so they wouldn't have to look at them.  Most studios made two versions available to appease both groups (I also want to mention practically all those full screen versions are practically un-sellable now).  When economics dictated that it would be financially cumbersome to do that, the studio would have to choose which version.

Sometimes they picked the consumer friendly full screen version.  In fact, they did this a lot.  Just ask Disney, who would almost always choose to compromise how the film was intended to look in favor of the more commercially friendly (but incorrectly looking) version... whoa, I just got a huge sense of déjà vu there.  Some studios put both the widescreen and full screen versions on the same disk.  Yes, this compromised the picture quality a little, but given the choice between that and no widescreen at all, it was an easy compromise for most film lovers out there.  I think the compromise of the 3D and 2D sharing the same disk is one that fans of, say, "Frozen," would be more than willing to make.  Also, from a marketing perspective, this would make a lot of financial sense as well as help push the market towards selling more 3D TV's.

There would be less disks to make, only one version of the product on the shelves (thus eliminating consumer confusion about different versions), and if more people had more movies in 3D (whether they intended to buy them or not) they would likely consider making sure their next TV they got would have 3D capabilities to insure they could watch them.  In short, it's a win-win for everyone.  Of course, the whole idea of the combo packs was also to do this very thing, but it doesn't work when you sell the products outside of the combo packs.  That's another topic for another day... and possibly another blog.  Anyway, I think this is something that is worth bringing up to the studios as a compromise if they insist on holding back on 3D releases because that extra $0.25 BluRay disk is just going to cost too much money.


Best Buy Has Exclusive "Planes: Fire & Rescue" 3D...Cover

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Most people are already aware that Disney has skimped on releasing a BluRay 3D of "Maleficent" this week, what most of you might not be aware of is that Disney also skipped on releasing a BluRay 3D of "Planes: Fire & Rescue."  Unlike "Maleficent" though, "Planes: Fire & Rescue" does not have an international release for important.  Vudu does have a 3D stream available as is the custom, however what's amazing about this is that Vudu is also giving you the 2D stream and special features this time!  You know, like how they should have been doing these releases all along instead of price gouging on a crummy 3D stream without special features.  Never mind, that's another post for another day.  If you want the cherry on top of this very strange affair check out this photo I took while I was at Best Buy today:

At first glance it looks like they might have negotiated to have exclusive rights to the 3D version, but a closer look reveles that they simply have an exclusive 3D cover.  I couldn't help but laugh at the irony in this.  Of course this isn't the first time Best Buy has spent money to secure the rights to an exclusive cover.  Heck, this seems to be one of the more bizzar attempts retailers make to try and lure fans of movies away from Amazon.com and convince them to trek to the store and make their purchase.  Does the cover make that much of a difference?  I personally don't think so, but I would probably be wrong in that assumption.  Anyway, I find it annoying that Best Buy would spend money on the rights to an exclusive cover but not on the 3D version.  I also want to warn potential buyers that if they see this in the store it just LOOKS like a BluRay 3D, but it's not!  Of course, considering how quietly this came to video, there's probably not many people who want "Planes: Fire & Rescue" in the first place.


BluRay 3D This Week

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This week we have two major 3D exhibited movies being released with only one of them getting a BluRay 3D release.  That release would be for "Hercules.". The Dwayne Johnson vehicle isn't what I would call a particularly good movie, but it's still nice that the 3D version is being made available for those who want it.  The much bigger release (which also had 3D was used to much better effect) is "Maleficent" (which also isn't very good).  This is the much bigger release of the two, yet Disney still insists on releasing their BluRay 3D's everywhere in the world except America.  Per the custom though, Vudu has the 3D version available in digital release.  It doesn't look as good as a BluRay would and good like having a connection that is consistent enough to stream it properly, but I suppose it's better than nothing.  Actually, considering the recent events, I'm starting to wonder if the reason Disney has cooled on releasing BluRay 3D disks is because Vudu has paid for exclusive rights to the 3D versions?  It's worth looking into at the very least.