Special edition CDs, DVDs unfair to fans

Andrew Hampp

Credit: Beth Rankin

Could there be anything worse for a music or movie fan’s wallet than special editions?

It seems like everywhere you turn, record labels and movie studios are releasing newer, expanded versions of the CDs and DVDs you’ve already had for months, even years.

Recent examples include the director’s cuts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, 10-year anniversary packages of Gen-X faves like Reality Bites and Dazed & Confused and Usher’s chart-topping deluxe version of Confessions, an album four million fans already owned before shelling out 16 more bucks to get a measly four new songs.

The release of a special edition or director’s cut for many DVDs especially is so inevitable these days that I’ve found myself waiting patiently to buy some of my favorite films long after their initial release on video.

Like the Kill Bill series. The skimpy special features on the single discs for Quentin Tarantino’s masterpieces all but spell out the fact that a collector’s edition boxed set is in the works. Especially from the man who went to painstaking lengths to compile virtually everything from Charlie Rose interviews to Siskel & Ebert segments for his Pulp Fiction DVD set. Although I’m dying to watch Vol. 2’s thrilling showdown between Uma Thurman and Darryl Hannah again and again, I’ve been forced to wait for at least another year!

Thankfully, the folks at Focus Features were kind enough to rush release their special edition of Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, just released on Jan. 4. A definite upgrade from September’s decent one disc, it features twice the deleted and extended scenes, commentary with Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, conversations between Gondry and the film’s stars and a 24-page souvenir booklet featuring photos, screenplay excerpts and glowing reviews from both press and fans. Good thing I didn’t get the original for Christmas!

And that’s the thing about special editions. With little or no advanced notice, they materialize out of nowhere, causing movie and music fans everywhere to clench their fists in frustration.

Music-wise, CD special editions have yet to incite the frenzy of their DVD counterparts. With the exception of Usher, artists have had a difficult time in generating excitement for their expanded discs, as so few music fans these days are willing to buy one full album, let alone two copies of the same one.

Recent examples include Norah Jones’ Feels Like Home Deluxe Edition, featuring a DVD with interviews, live performances and photos as well as three exceptional new songs. Franz Ferdinand also reissued their self-titled debut with a bonus disc of five previously unreleased tracks, all of which were rightfully left off the initial release but are interesting nonetheless.

The possibilities for DVD reissues, however, are limitless. Particularly with movie franchises. Virtually every sequel this year saw its predecessor re-released in special edition format with a moderate amount of bonus features like interviews and outtakes.

But what keeps people buying slightly different versions of the same DVDs is the free movie tickets for these movies’ respective sequels. A few of this year’s many culprits included Bridget Jones’ Diary, Meet The Parents and The Bourne Identity, all who made fans wonder, “Gosh, if only I had waited four years for Meet The Fockers to come out, I could’ve gotten more deleted scenes, outtakes and a free ticket with my Meet The Parents DVD! D’oh!”

And that’s the most unfair thing of all with special editions. If a movie has really strong franchise potential, there would seem to be little to no point in buying it on DVD until its re-release, conveniently scheduled to coincide with its sequel.

Just don’t expect all theatrical sequels to be accompanied by revamps of their predecessors. The skimpy one disc for Ocean’s Eleven wasn’t retooled for this winter’s disappointing Ocean’s Twelve. Nor was Anaconda expanded to remind people that Jennifer Lopez was making bad movies as early as 1997 for this August’s Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid. Although I’m not sure how many people were clamoring for more footage of Jon Voight being vomited by a giant snake…All I can say is there sure as hell better not be a Mean Girls 2, or I will be one P.O.’d Tina Fey fan.

What I propose is that studios offer 50 percent discounts, if not full refunds, to anyone hoodwinked into buying a CD or DVD before its special edition. It’s the only way they can still profit from their sneaky tactics without completely pissing off their customers. If action isn’t taken soon against these pesky re-releasers, expect an all-out revolt against deceptive movie and music packaging to be led by yours truly at your local Best Buy. Viva la editione speciale revolucion!

Contact pop arts editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].