Nerd Alert: Watchmen to Save DVD Sales?


Warner Bros. is trying to prop up softening DVD sales with a new strategy to promote its upcoming superhero feature film Watchmen. The studio will release a separate a side movie based on the original film on DVD only, prior to the main Watchmen hitting theaters.

The New York Times writes that DVD sales fell for the first time last year — a drop that has retailers and studios nervous as DVDs can drive as much as 70 percent of the revenue for a new film. Warner Bros.’ plan would generate three separate DVD release opportunities for Watchmen (the side movie, the original film and a bundling of the two), pushing retail sales and promoting a (hopefully) new franchise for the studio.

For those of you who actually went on dates in high school, Watchmen is a gritty, superhero comic book graphic novel. A side story within the comic was a historical drama called “Tales of the Black Freighter.” Warner’s will create an animated movie of “Black Freighter,” and release it along with a documentary-style movie on DVD five days before Watchmen hits theaters.

There are a couple problems with this plan. First, it props up a dying technology and a physical product instead of moving us further to digital downloads — no more shiny discs! I understand Warner Bros. is making good with retailers after the studio said it would release all films this year on VOD day-and-date with DVD, thereby potentially impacting DVD sales, but three separate releases is just bilking fans.

Second, no offense to Watchmen, which was a ground-breaking, brilliant story, but “The Black Freighter” part of the book was bo-ring (fanboys, feel fee to flame me in the comments). It’s not indicative of the main movie and could turn noobs off.

One thing Warner Bros. is doing that’s smart is a series of Watchmen webisodes in advance of the movie that are basically slideshows of panels from the original comic with narration. There are no DVDs to buy and it’s an entertaining way to understand the source material.


Liz Shannon Miller

I feel like you’re being a little hard on Black Freighter there — he floats on a raft made of bodies! that’s awesome! — and I think there’s some incredible potential for future adaptations in this plan. Besides, I’d rather see studios take a completist approach than, say, sit through LXG again.

Chris Albrecht

Another thing that’s interesting, I don’t know how Warner could turn this into an ongoing “franchise.” As I understand it, Snyder is doing pretty much the whole comic, what could come after? Watchmen / League of Extraordinary Gentlemen team-up? (being sarcastic)

Glenn Rubenstein

I couldn’t agree with you more, Chris.

My recollection is that Tales of the Black Freighter ends strong, but takes way too long to pick up the pace. The Watchmen story itself, however, is pretty amazing from start to finish. I seem to recall that Alan Moore had intended their presentation to compliment one another in the original monthly comics, but this effect will be further lost by splitting them into separate adaptations.

On its own, Watchmen looks like it’s shaping up to be a pretty epic superhero movie. Warner Bros. seems committed to delivering a faithful adaptation of the graphic novel, and I’ll be first in line for a matinee showing the Monday after it opens — once the crowds have died down.

However, Tales of the Black Freighter is a dark pirate story, and as a standalone animated movie, I can’t help but imagine it unfolding like something you’d see spoofed on The Simspons Halloween episode.

I suspect that someone at Warner Bros. has been drinking a little too much fanboy Kool-Aid — either that, or this separate DVD release was the only way they could justify the expense of producing the additional animated content.

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