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Dude, Where’s My Midnight in Paris Blu Ray?

I own a blu ray player. I still like to buy my blu ray and DVDs, even if I accept that Netflix might render that a thing of the past. However, I can’t help but feel that some of the distributors are shooting themselves in the foot in how they are handling the medium. I mean, Criterion have suddenly decided to region-lock their blu ray releases, making the highest-quality home media releases less accessible than the DVD editions of the same films. Last week, I went to pick up a copy of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris from HMV, making my weekly trip and, while the DVD was present, there was no blu ray to be found.

A long, dark midnight of the format...

I asked around the shop, and the wonderfully helpful staff were unable to find a blu ray version of that film in their computer. Very kindly, and very obligingly, they suggested that the blu ray simply hadn’t arrived with the DVD editions that morning. This had, after all, happened only a week or so earlier with Stupid Crazy Love, another Warner Brothers release. So I waited, and I checked back in again. It still wasn’t there.

Although I do like to do a tiny bit to support local industry, I decided that I’d buy it on-line, since there was no sign of the blu ray on any Irish shelves. I tried several popular purchasing websites, and none of them showed any sign of a blu ray release for the UK and Irish markets. It seemed like the film was only going to be released in DVD. This ticked me off considerably, because that was one of my favourite movies of the past year, and I was actually really looking forward to sharing it with my family.

This release plan is absurd!

I might be more forgiving if there were a reason why the film wasn’t released on blu ray. After all, any number of low-profile releases still get DVD-only releases. I don’t mind the fact I’ll have to pick up Tucker and Dale vs. Evil or Black Dynamite up on blu ray, because I realise that they are niche films. DVD is still the primary market, so films with limited budgets and cult audiences that can’t afford both will wisely opt for DVD. However, Midnight in Paris is not a niche film. It is Woody Allen’s most successful film ever made. It is nominated for Best Picture. It is promoted and distributed over here by Warner Brothers, a major studio.

Similarly, I don’t expect all movie titles ever to be available to me on this format immediately. I accept that I’ll have to wait to see the major movie studios drip-feed their classic films to the format. I am waiting for Vertigoon blu ray, for example. However, this concern doesn’t apply to new releases. Midnight in Paris doesn’t need upscaling or restoration work of anything like that. It should be good to go in Britain and Ireland, as it seems to be everywhere else in the world.

I'd love to Owen it on blu ray...

Again, I might be less upset if Woody Allen didn’t want the film in a given format. After all, directors can occasionally make demands with regards to the home media release of their work. David Lynch, for example, does not like to include chapter stops on his work, encouraging viewers to watch his films in one sitting without stopping or going back and forth. Maybe Woody Allen had a philosophical objection to higher definition. Maybe he felt it would undermine his art, or reveal some production mistakes masked by lower resolution. I wouldn’t necessarily be happy if that was the case, but I would be less bothered.

Instead, the movie has been released on blu ray in German and France and the United States. So there’s no objection to releasing the film in higher definition. There’s simply an objection to releasing the film in a higher definition for the Irish and British markets. While I can’t dig up too much information on modern figures, the British blu ray market seemed quite profitable in 2009. It’s possible this was a planning oversight, but that doesn’t seem especially likely.

I think it Fitz the format quite well...

Warner Brothers have a history of not region-locking their releases. This means that I can import movies from the States and watch them at home. However, for some strange reason, the American release of Midnight in Paris is locked to that region, so I can’t simply import the movie I want in the format I want. The French and German releases of the film will play on Irish and British players, but the packaging will be in a foreign language, and Allen’s film will come with force subtitles. That doesn’t sound too appealing to a guy who wants to be able to add the film to his shelf next to Drive or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Here’s the catch, though. What does this mean for future releases? After all, if a Woody Allen film can be released in DVD and not blu ray, does that mean I can bank on any quirky semi-independent film seeing release on blu ray? I bought the player so I could enjoy the best possible home media system, and I waited until the format war had resolved itself before committing. I can’t help but feel like a bit of a chump if I can’t watch the movies I want on a format that was sold to me as the future of home entertainment. I come out of this feeling stupid, and it impacts my ability to recommend it. After all, I can hardly assure any would-be adapters that all the big movies will be available in that format, surely?

A-paul-ing disappointment...

If you are trying to sell an audience on a new format, the key is consistency. Consistency is especially important when competing with services like Netflix. Nobody is going to buy a blu ray player on the assumption that 80% of their favourite films will be available in the format – they’ll buy the player on the assumption that the studios will aim to get as much as humanly possible to them in that format. Once you create the impression that blu ray is a less complete experience than its predecessor, I fear the battle for hearts and minds may be over. I say this as a blu ray champion and enthusiast.

Perhaps we won’t always have Paris….

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4 Responses

  1. “If you are trying to sell an audience on a new format, the key is consistency.” 100% agree, but not just on which films are released, but disc quality too.

    While it’s better than the first couple of years I hate forking out the extra for a Blu Ray that looks the same, or not much better, than a DVD release. Picture appears to be getting better (other than majority of low-budget/small studio), but sound quality is still a bit of a gamble, no matter who’s putting out the disc.

    • Thanks. It’s a fair point. Though I will confess that I still think sound is generally much improved from DVD to blu ray. That’s the first thing we noticed on upgrading, despite all the emphasis put on picture.

      • Agreed, sound quality is almost always better (especially with the lossless HD soundtracks when available), but the overall 5.1 mix in a lot of discs can be very, very flat 😦

  2. I’m pretty pissed off with this too. I see absolutely no reason why one of the best films of recent times wasn’t made available on Blu-ray in UK.

    Let Warner UK know that they’ve lost your money with their stupid decision:

    WBCustomerServices@technicolor.com

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