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Summary:

Settle in for a tale of retailer exclusives, international editions and the Bittorrenting that ensues when a Blu-ray release goes wrong.

star trek into darkness blu-ray

If you’re not a hardcore DVD/Blu-ray enthusiast, you may not be aware of an interesting kerfuffle that’s just arisen. But while it might only seem to affect your more devoted variety of Star Trek fans on the surface, it serves as a case study of what’s going wrong with the physical media world at this moment.

This summer, the Paramount film Star Trek Into Darkness managed an impressive thing for a major blockbuster released in 2013 — not only was it critically popular for the most part, but it actually managed to make some money at the box office, as well.

But the site Trekcore.com last week ran an extraordinarily thorough review of the upcoming Blu-ray release of Star Trek Into Darkness — one that rated the Blu-ray transfer quality at five stars, but the special features at 0.5 stars.

Why such a dramatic difference in the ratings? Because, as Trekcore lays out:

There’s no denying that the high definition presentation of this film looks absolutely beautiful — but this is the most confusing, exploitative release ever to bear the Star Trek name.

The primary issue is that of “retailer exclusives” — different versions of the film being packaged with different sets of special features, depending on where you buy the film once it’s available September 10th on Blu-ray.

This means getting an entirely different set of behind-the-scenes featurettes if you buy the film from Target versus Best Buy, and that’s only within the United States — other international releases feature additional features and visual options (including a German edition which may include IMAX-formatted footage).

Plus, the only way to acquire any version of the film that includes an audio commentary is to either buy the film on iTunes or use the accompanying digital download code on the Apple service.

That gets you access to the “visual commentary track” — which is not tied to the original download, but is instead a five GB download of the film described by TrekCore as follows:

The iTunes commentary is more than just an audio track — it’s an entirely separate encoding of the film, with on-screen picture-in-picture annotations and behind-the-scenes footage. There’s no additional scenes in this version of the film, but because the commentators often pause and rewind footage to highlight specific elements of production, the thing runs nearly thirty minutes longer than the standard film.

And while director J.J. Abrams and cast members have mentioned the existence of at least two deleted scenes, the only sign TrekCore could find of those scenes being available on Blu-ray was an upcoming Australian release — a release that may also be tied to another retailer exclusive in that country.

One of those two known deleted scenes, just for the record, is a shower scene featuring fangirl icon/breakout star Benedict Cumberbatch, which Abrams teased earlier this year on Conan. That seems like something that would sell a few box sets.

Amazon rankings, at time of writing, did have pre-orders for Into Darkness at #17 in the Movies & TV category, and the film is also at #4 on the iTunes best-sellers chart. But according to TorrentFreak, a torrent of Into Darkness is already the second-most downloaded movie of last week.

Special features don’t seem to have popped up on BitTorrent yet, but that’s not hard to imagine changing in the next few weeks. Because that’s going to be the only real way to get a complete set — Paramount has no track record for creating “complete” editions of its past Blu-ray releases.

So what does this ultimately mean for the film’s release? It’s not necessarily something the casual viewer will notice — the casual viewer will probably be content with the iTunes edition, or waiting for it to be available on VOD or other streaming options.

But that’s because the casual viewer probably isn’t interested in spending $102.98 without shipping costs (according to math done by a TrekCore commenter) to get the majority of the special features.

And that’s undoubtedly math that Paramount is counting on — has, in fact, counted on in the past.

But trying to keep an entire industry alive on the backs of devoted fans craving limited edition features isn’t the most solid business model. It’s a solution that speaks of short-term thinking, at a time when the rise of HD-quality video coincides with ever-shrinking data caps.

The physical media world has enough problems — why alienate the consumers who are still shelling out cash?

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  1. Good read. Every time I start to feel slightly guilty about BitTorrent usage, I’m reminded of why I shouldn’t.

  2. With respect, this problem isn’t new. Ever looked into what was required to get the complete TRON:Legacy soundtrack? Roughly similar cost and very similar geographic issues. And that was simply for a stupid *soundtrack*.

    1. Yeah, but Tron: Legacy is a music video. Thats really the RIAA’s fault, not the MPAA

      1. It’s still the MAFIAA.

  3. internetworld7 Sunday, September 1, 2013

    Get the fudge out of here, just show me the movie and be done with it… Did see the movie already by the way in HD (Thanks bittorrent)!

    1. People like you are the problem.

  4. Is everyone forgetting about The Lord of The Rings? There’s about 5 or 6 different disc versions of each movie (incl. collected sets) and most of those have different extras from each other, or at least some version specific extras, and this is without even looking at international editions.

    1. Entirely different issue. LOTR has different versions, each with more extras and therefore a higher price. But all versions are available to everyone, no need to think about where you shop because retailer A has special feature X, while retailer B has special feature Y.

      1. I don’t think it’s an entirely different issue at its core. It’s all a cash grab, forcing die-hard fans to spend vast quantities of money if they want all the extras.

        1. The difference is that with Lord of the Rings, I can spend some extra money to get everything in one release, if I am so inclined. With Star Trek Into Darkness, I don’t even know what all the special features are without doing research and finding out which version has which features, and then buying the same movie five or more times to get everything.
          They are both cash grabs, but one is convenient and fan-pleasing, and the other isn’t. If they had made one “extra-special edition”, four-disc set with all the bonus stuff together, I’d probably get it even if it were expensive. But no way will I hunt them all down on multiple, international releases.

        2. They are both cash grabs, but one is convenient and fan-pleasing, and one isn’t. If they had put out some kind of “extra-special edition”, four-disc set with all the bonus stuff together, I’d probably buy even if it were expensive. But no way am I going to hunt them all down on multiple, international releases.

  5. Similar things are done with physical video game releases. You get in-game different extras depending on where you buy the game. It feels just wrong and has lead me to boycott physical video games releases.

  6. 2 words: Corporate greed.

  7. Short-sightedness and customer alienation are endemic to the mainstream big media companies. Trying to squeeze every drop of profit out movies, music, what have you, has angered consumers and given rise to more nimble and responsive competitors ready to gut media giants like Sony or Paramount.

    1. That was out of left field. What has Sony done for you to name them when its not mentioned anywhere in the article, or anyone else’s comments? Or is it just because it’s one of the big multi-media giants, like WB?

  8. This retailer-specific content has to stop.

    It’s just as crappy with video games. 12 different editions, no way to just have all content in one box.

    And I don’t get why this happens now, at a time when retailers have far less power than 10 years ago. Publishers can go directly to customers with digital downloads, so why do they spend so much energy pleasuring Best Buy, Amazon et al?

  9. Oh, pish. Boo hoo.

    I dare you to try and count the number of Dragon Ball Z releases. This kind of crap has been going on for a decade.

    1. That’s a little different, since each release came at distinctly different times, although I agree the DBZ treatment in America was ridiculous. Some of it couldn’t be helped, since it was all being released during the switch from VHS to DVD. The TV release and then uncut release also made sense, and in no way did you have to buy both. To compare to Into Darkness, the DBZ thing would have had to been just the uncut scenes as a separate release.

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