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DVD fanaticism: It's what's for dinner

By Nick Nunziata
CNN Headline News


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(CNN) -- Before we go to the core of this week's article, allow me a brief dissertation on the "widescreen vs. fullscreen" DVD debate. In my opinion, there's no reason to buy a fullscreen DVD. Thank you. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

As most of you know, the DVD market has grown by leaps and bounds as collectors get more rabid and regular folks realize that they're collectors when they're forced to buy new shelves for the living room to accommodate their burgeoning DVD library. By accident: that's the perfect way to become a collector, isn't it?

One day you're making fun of your buddy for his little shrine to the digital medium, and the next you're lined up at the local video store waiting for the guy to unlock the gate. You glance at your watch and realize it's 10:01 a.m., and you wonder if the sales associate is aware of his grievous error in judgment. That's a valuable minute wasted that could be spent seeing if the store has bothered to stock the latest incarnation of "Ransom."

Eventually, the gate does open and the flock is allowed to enter. The results are both scary and oddly comforting. You see, I am one of those people, and I am not alone in my quest to feed the DVD monkey on my back.

The studios are getting wise to it, too. The success of New Line Cinema's "The Lord of the Rings" series and the company's tiered DVD release technique reaped instant dividends. As a result, we're seeing a lot of popular films being released by that method. Consumers get a taste with the first release, and then a gigantic DVD collection lands in stores a half-year later. Some studios aren't quite as generous as New Line regarding their tactics, though.

The fact that the hobbit-infused films were going to be released in two editions was public knowledge. Some studios wait until the sales have dried up for a title before launching a sparkling new version with extra-special features, a spiffy new video transfer or a collectible case to hold it. It's called the "Double Dip," and it's the consumers who bite the bait like a famished trout that make it such a cash cow.

DVD has crossed over. It's not a fad, phenomenon or quirky bit of the film culture. It's causing rental stores to rethink their tactics, consumers to plan their budgets around DVD release schedules and casual fans to become collectors. But there's some shifty marketing rhetoric to consider: At what point do DVD buyers say "enough is enough" and bring about a more focused and consumer-friendly way of having home video evolve? There's the ever-present threat of DVD titles reaching the incredibly expensive prices that VHS carried to keep the rental market robust. There's new technology around the corner threatening to unseat the current format.

DVD is coming up to a bizarre crossroads. I hope the consumer benefits, but until then, I'll see you folks in line.


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