OOPs: Or, Why DVD Collectors Are Suckers
By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 07/08/07 21:36:36
Whenever I see an out-of-print DVD going for enough cash to buy an XBOX 360 system, I think of Richard Pryor. Yeah, him. I'll explain.
Near the beginning of his classic 1979 film Richard Pryor Live in Concert, Pryor is loosely riffing onstage, warming up, when he notices a guy standing in the front row taking his picture. Pryor starts ripping on the guy: "Why you takin' my picture? Who you gonna show it to? 'I got a picture of Richard Pryor!' 'Who gives a fuck?'"
So when people have spent upwards of $400 for the Criterion edition of Salo with the all-important white ring on the disc (don't ask), I wish Pryor were with us:
"Why you want that DVD? Who you gonna show it to?"
"I got the Criterion Salo DVD!"
"Who gives a fuck?"
My theory is that people generally won't care if you own the Criterion Salo DVD. And if they do care, they'll hate you because they don't own it. Collectors want their collector friends to hate them, I guess.
Either that, or they want the warm feeling associated with owning something rare. But then Criterion reissues Salo — which they will sometime in the near future — and then what's the appeal? "I bought this when it was rare. I spent half my paycheck on it." "Yeah, but you can buy it new right now for $30—" "I DON'T CARE. I HAVE THE RARE EDITION."
Now and again I go on the eBay to see what's selling for stupid prices. Partly it's to see if I happen to own anything I can unload for a sweet ka-ching. For instance, people are asking — and getting — in the area of $125 for the first season of Twin Peaks. Hey, I have that. It's even still sealed. And looky here, someone got $76 for The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. I have that, too. Michael Radford's adaptation of Orwell's 1984 with John Hurt nabbed $73 recently. Got that, too. And holy crap, the Flash Gordon DVD went for $66. Did whoever bought that not know that the flick's being re-issued with a new transfer soon?
Here's the thing: Nothing stays out of print (or OOP, as it's known on the eBay) forever. If even Salo can be re-issued, anything will. Salo used to be the #1 high-seller. Now that Criterion has announced a new edition, not so much. A copy recently sold for $227.50 — not peanuts, but not the $400-600 it used to pull in. You know what beat it out in the listings I'm looking at? The Midnight Hour. No shit. A sealed copy of the horror-comedy starring Shari Belafonte got 19 bids and ended up selling for $255.
If something's OOP, people suddenly want it, because you want what you can't have, and so you find someone asking $155 for a copy of They Might Be Giants, the George C. Scott flick whose title inspired the funky band of the same name. It's not even sealed: "The disc is extremely clean with just a few very minor, barely noticeable scuffs." Yeah, good luck with that, Sparky. I'll just wait until Anchor Bay eventually re-issues it. Oh, wait, I don't have to — I own that one, too. Can I have $155 now?
Or you could just wait until the HD-DVD or Blu-Ray comes out. Or you could be really patient and wait until you can watch anything you want, along with the extras that would be on a DVD, on demand on the Netflix Channel. No matter how old or obscure it is, it'll be in the database, and you'll be able to punch it up and watch it for a fee, or save it to your home-entertainment hard drive for a larger fee. All it requires is that you get over your need to own shelves full of metal discs in plastic cases.
That won't happen anytime soon. In the meantime, we have a sealed copy of My Dinner with Andre going for $138. Christ, that's probably more than the flick made in theaters. In the words of one of its stars in a different role: "Inconceivable!"