As DVD and Blu-ray Disc fades from mainstream popularity, industry observers continue to point toward the viability of physical media as a niche product.
For cinephiles and home media enthusiasts, DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD disc remain the best way to collect movies and TV shows for home libraries. The holiday shopping season thus becomes an ideal time for studios and independent distributors to court the collectors market with a variety of boxed sets and gift giving options, and 2023 is no exception.
One notable set, released Nov. 21, is BBC Studios’ Doctor Who: Limited Edition New Who Collector’s Blu-ray, a 58-disc set containing the full television run of the “Doctor Who” franchise since its revival in 2005, spanning 13 seasons and assorted specials. The sci-fi classic, which originally ran from 1963 to 1989, follows the adventures of a time-traveling alien called The Doctor who occasionally regenerates in appearance, which allows for a new performer to take over the role. The boxed set includes newly upscaled episodes from the first four seasons, plus hours of bonus materials, a numbered certificate of authenticity and a collection of figurines of the five primary Doctors that headlined the run.
“I would recommend the ‘Doctor Who’ box for one primary reason: value,” said Stephen Bjork, a reviewer for home media enthusiast site TheDigitalBits.com. “BBC Blu-rays are so damned expensive that it’s been hard to collect that series on disc. The box itself isn’t cheap, but it’s the cheapest that ‘Who’ has ever been when you do the math by disc. The packaging is a little plain, but it seems sturdy enough, and it’s hard to complain when it’s such a good value.”
The “Doctor Who” boxed set is listed at Amazon.com for $165, and was timed for release just prior to the debut of the 60th anniversary specials and a new season on Disney+.
Boutique label Arrow Video generated some buzz over the summer with its Enter the Video Store: Empire of Screams Blu-ray Disc set. The collection includes five cult hits released by Empire Pictures: The Dungeonmaster (1984), Dolls (1986), Cellar Dweller (1987), Arena (1989), and Robot Jox (1990).
“All rare gems, and each with nice unique special features,” said Bill Hunt, founder of TheDigitalBits.com.
Following the limited-edition version released in June, Arrow released a standard edition of the set Dec. 12.
Vinegar Syndrome’s Lost Picture Show six-disc Blu-ray set contains 10 long-thought-lost American films from a variety of genres that have been restored from their best-known and surviving elements. Included are Walter Burns’ Barbara (1970), Oliver Drake’s The Las Vegas Strangler (aka No Tears for the Damned, 1968), Titus Moede’s The Last of the American Hoboes (1971), Charles Nizet’s Voodoo Heartbeat (aka The Sex Serum of Dr. Blake, 1970), Carlos Tobalina and Bill Cable’s What’s Love (1987), Larry Crane’s Beware the Black Widow (1968), Joe Sarno’s Deep Inside (1968), Donn Greer’s The Rare Blue Apes of Cannibal Isle (aka The Pirates of Cannibal Isle, 1974), James Newslow’s Red Midnight (1966), and Albert Zugsmith’s Violated! (1973).
“The Vinegar Syndrome Lost Picture Show Blu-ray box set is an incredible achievement for not only physical media lovers but also for film preservation and restoration efforts,” said Jeff Rauseo of the Films at Home podcast. “The premium packaging and loads of special features, including a feature-length documentary on the process behind discovering and saving lost films, make this a must-have set for fans of obscure cinema and those who want to take a deep dive into what the world of film has to offer.”
Bill Hunt also was impressed by the Lost Picture Show set.
“The package also offers lots of special features, including audio commentaries, introductions for each film by the Vinegar Syndrome team, trailers, alternate title sequences, outtakes, and two great new video pieces including Deep Inside Vinegar Syndrome, a walk-through of the company’s headquarters, and Against the Grain, a feature-length documentary on the effort to recover and restore rare and forgotten genre films,” Hunt said. “And the packaging itself is stunning, including a beautiful magnetic cover library box that protects two Amaray cases and two 40-page books, all featuring gorgeous custom artwork.”
Released Nov. 24 but limited to a run of 10,000 copies, the boxed set is no longer available through the Vinegar Syndrome website but can be found on eBay for around $100.
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Indie distributor Shout! Studios released a bunch of boxed sets in time for the holidays.
Among them is a Blu-ray set of all seven “Police Academy” movies, released Nov. 21 as The Police Academy Collection. The films were released between 1984 and 1994 and have been packaged together in a five-disc set. Included are the original Police Academy, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, Police Academy 3: Back in Training, Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach, Police Academy 6: City Under Siege and Police Academy: Mission to Moscow. The franchise’s premise is laid out in the first film, with the mayor announcing a new policy requiring the police department to accept all willing recruits. Despite their eccentricities, a group of misfit recruits attempt to prove themselves capable of being police officers. Steve Guttenberg stars in the first four films as Carey Mahoney, a repeat offender who is forced to join the Police Academy as punishment. The release boasts new 2K scans of the interpositives, and various bonus features, including commentaries, featurettes and interviews.
ALF: The Complete Series (Deluxe Edition) arrived on DVD in October from Shout! Studios. The 24-disc collection includes all 102 episodes from the 1986-90 sitcom “ALF” about a furry “Alien Life Form” that crash lands into the garage of the Tanner family, and begins living with them. Also included is the 1996 TV movie follow-up Project: ALF with Martin Sheen, plus all 26 episodes of the prequel “ALF: The Animated Series,” and the 21 episodes of the animated “ALF Tales” series that cast the characters in parodies of fairy tales. (According to Shout! Studios, the season one “ALF” episode “Try to Remember” has been edited for content, but the DVD contains the best existing version.)
Shout! Studios and GKIDS in October released a 4K Ultra HD collector’s edition boxed set of anime movie Evangelion: 3.0+1.11 Thrice Upon a Time. The fourth installment of the theatrical “Rebuild” edition of popular “Evangelion” franchise was a theatrical hit in Japan in 2021. Created by Hideaki Anno, the “Neon Genesis Evangelion” franchise is considered one of the most influential animated sagas of all time. Since the 1995 premiere of the original television series, the story of teenager Shinji Ikari has remained one of the most iconic titles in animation history, and a global pop culture phenomenon. Following the TV show, the project received new life as the “Evangelion” movie series. The theatrical film series began with 2007’s Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone and continued with 2009’s Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance and 2012’s Evangelion: 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo. In Evangelion: 3.0+1.11 Thrice Upon a Time (alternately known as Evangelion: 3.0+1.01), Misato and her anti-NERV group Wille arrive at Paris, a city now red from core-ization. Crew from the flagship Wunder land on a containment tower. They only have 720 seconds to restore the city. When a horde of NERV Evas appear, Mari’s improved Eva Unit 8 must intercept. Meanwhile, Shinji, Asuka, and Rei (Provisional Name) wander about Japan. The 4K UHD Collector’s Edition is a three-disc set that includes one 4K UHD disc featuring the film, a Blu-ray of the feature film, and a disc of brand-new bonus features encased in a rigid box case. Featuring both the original Japanese language version and an English dub, the set includes a 28-page book, art cards, and a poster, as well as bonus features including character promotion reels, stage greetings, trailers and more.
Farscape: The Complete Series — 25th Anniversary Edition arrived on Blu-ray Disc Nov. 21 from Shout! Studios. The 22-disc set includes all 88 episodes, the miniseries “Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars,” and hours of new and previously released extras. The show follows the adventures of astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder), a test pilot whose experimental spacecraft is flung through a wormhole to a galaxy on the other side of the universe. Hunted by the relentless Peacekeepers, Crichton allies himself with a group of alien refugees on the living spaceship Moya while searching for a way home. “Farscape” was produced originally for the Nine Network and on the Sci-Fi Channel in March 1999. It was produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment. The Henson Company provided the alien make-up and prosthetics. The series was canceled after four seasons, ending on a cliffhanger. Rights to the series were later acquired by co-producer Brian Henson, who directed the three-hour ”Peacekeeper Wars” as a finale.
Shout! Studios released the complete “Shaun the Sheep” animated TV series on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Dec. 12. Shaun the Sheep: The Complete Series includes all 170 episodes, marking the first time seasons 5 and 6 are available on disc. The collection also includes “Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas,” a half-hour holiday special, and over an hour of bonus material that include “Mossy Bottom Shorts,” “Championsheeps,” and the special “Shaun the Sheep: The Farmer’s Llamas.” “Shaun the Sheep” is an award-winning series (Annecy Cristal, BAFTA, International Emmy Awards) known for its slapstick humor, distinctive look and strong, quirky characters. First appearing in Nick Park’s 1995 Academy Award-winning “Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave,” Shaun then went on to star in his own series and several movies.
Shout! Studios Dec. 19 releases GKIDS’s Masaaki Yuasa: Five Films, a Blu-ray set that includes the animated films Mind Game (2004), The Night is Short, Walk on Girl (2017), Lu Over the Wall (2017), Ride Your Wave (2019) and Inu-Oh (2021). Widely regarded as one of the most imaginative and influential filmmakers working in animation, Yuasa’s energetic style has been compared to Tex Avery and Max Fleischer. He is one of contemporary anime’s most prolific auteurs and has lent his humor and dynamism to genres as diverse as psychedelic thrillers, transcendent rock-operas and sweetly subversive teen romances. Extras include art newly designed by Yuasa throughout the packaging, a poster of the new art and an exclusive 60-page book celebrating the work of this one-of-a-kind storyteller featuring excerpts from the creative’s sketchbook.
Also available Dec. 19 will be Shout! Studios’ new special collector’s edition of Oliver Stone’s controversial 1991 film JFK on 4K Ultra HD and regular Blu-ray Disc, under the indie film distributor’s Shout! Select brand. The film delves into the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy from the perspective of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), who came to believe there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy and that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. The set comes loaded with special features, including 4K scans of the original negative; audio commentary from the director, producer, and co-writer; deleted and extended scenes; and more.
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CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment Nov. 7 released Star Trek: The Picard Legacy Collection, a comprehensive individually numbered 54-disc Blu-ray boxed set touted to contain every series and film featuring the character of Jean-Luc Picard, spanning 208 episodes and four movies. Included are all seven seasons of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-94); the “TNG” movies Star Trek: Generations (1994), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002); all three seasons of “Star Trek: Picard” (2020-2023); more than 35 hours of special features; and exclusive collectibles such as magnetic Capt. Picard badges, four custom Chateau Picard drink coasters, and a custom deck of playing cards. Rounding out the set is an exclusive version of the 2020 book The Wisdom of Picard, called The Wisdom of Picard: The Legacy Collection Edition, which features new cover art and includes quotes from the latest seasons of “Star Trek: Picard.” The press announcement didn’t mention whether the Picard Legacy Collection would also include the character’s appearance on the 1993 pilot episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Emissary.”
Paramount Dec. 5 released a limited-edition collector’s boxed set of the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of James Cameron’s 1997 Oscar winner Titanic. The two-disc set includes the film on 4K Ultra HD and a Blu-ray Disc with more than five hours of new and legacy bonus content, including new interviews with Cameron, star Kate Winslet and producer Jon Landau. The discs are stored in a hardcover coffee table book detailing the making of the film’s most iconic scenes, and housed in a slipcase containing collectibles such a schematic inspired by the actual ship’s blueprint, highlighting locations of key scenes; movie prop reproductions of a boarding pass, launch viewing ticket, ship menus, and notes from Jack to Rose and Rose to Cal; and sheet music for the multi-award-winning hit “My Heart Will Go On.”
The Titanic set should also include access to a digital copy of the film, though many copies of the set were mistakenly shipped without the paper containing the code. Consumers who purchased a set that is missing the code can submit a request at support.paramountdigitalcopy.com/hc/en-us/requests/new to have a code emailed to them.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Nov. 21 released the six-movie “Resident Evil” collection on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in Steelbook packaging. Based on the video games of the same name, the “Resident Evil” movies star Milla Jovovich as Alice, a former security specialist and covert operative who battles the Umbrella Corporation, whose bioweapons have triggered a zombie apocalypse. The set includes 2002’s Resident Evil, 2004’s Resident Evil: Apocalypse, 2007’s Resident Evil: Extinction, 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife, 2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution, and 2017’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter on both 4K and regular Blu-ray, with loads of bonus materials.
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment Dec. 5 released the sci-fi series “Babylon 5” as a complete-series Blu-ray Disc in celebration of the show’s 30th anniversary. Created by J. Michael Straczynski, “Babylon 5” is a space opera set in the mid-23rd century, focused on a remote space station touted as the “last best hope for peace” between humanity and a number of hostile alien species. The Babylon 5: The Complete Series Blu-ray set includes all 110 original episodes fully remastered in HD and will be available at online retailers. The set also includes the show’s pilot movie “The Gathering,” which premiered in February 1993. The first season kicked off a year later, in January 1994, and the show wrapped up its five-season story arc in 1998. The cult-favorite show starred Bruce Boxleitner, Michael O’Hare, Claudia Christian, Jerry Doyle, Mira Furlan, Andreas Katsulas, Peter Jurasik, Richard Biggs, Andrea Thompson, Stephen Furst, Bill Mumy, Tracy Scoggins, Jason Carter, Robert Rusler, Jeff Conaway, Patricia Tallman and Mary Kay Adams.
The Walt Disney Co. released The Disney Legacy Animated Film Collection, a boxed set of 100 classic animated films on Blu-ray Disc, in celebration of the studio’s 100th anniversary. The collection includes films from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Walt Disney Television Animation and others, packaged in a hardbound, self-standing three-volume set that unfolds into a storybook and showcases each film’s original theatrical poster art. The selection includes Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, Sleeping Beauty, The Lion King, Toy Story, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, Frozen, Aladdin, Lilo & Stitch, Finding Nemo, Mulan, Cars and The Little Mermaid. The set includes all 100 films on Blu-ray Disc, digital codes for each title, a lithograph from Disney Animation’s new musical comedy Wish, a numbered certificate of authenticity, and a collectible crystal Mickey ears hat with exclusive Disney 100 engraving. All the films in the set have been previously available on Blu-ray, with the exception of 2005’s Pooh’s Heffalump Movie. The set was released in November for $1,499.96, but has since sold out at retail and can be found on the secondary market for north of $2000.
Disney also released several Disney+ series in Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Steelbook editions. Marvel’s Loki: The Complete First Season arrived Sept. 26, Marvel’s WandaVision was released Nov. 28, and Lucasfilm’s The Mandalorian: The Complete First Season and The Mandalorian: The Complete Second Season were released Dec. 12. All were also available as Blu-ray+DVD Steelbooks through the Disney Movie Club.
Music Box Films Dec. 12 released a Blu-ray collection of two spy-movie parodies from the “OSS 117” franchise — 2006’s Cairo, Nest of Spies and 2009’s Lost in Rio. Both films are French productions that star Jean Dujardin and were directed by Michel Hazanavicius. Both would go on to win Oscars for 2011 Best Picture winner The Artist. The films are based on the “OSS 117” series of novels created by author Jean Bruce in 1949, that follow the exploits of French secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath. The books were turned into a series of spy movies in the 1950s and 1960s. Hazanavicius revived the franchise in 2006 as a spoof of the original films, with Dujardin as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, now presented as self-important, dimwitted and politically incorrect. In Cairo, Nest of Spies, set in 1955, de La Bath is sent to Cairo to investigate the disappearance of his best friend and fellow spy Jack Jefferson, only to stumble into a web of international intrigue. Lost in Rio, set in 1967,sees de La Bath in Brazil to retrieve a microfilm list of French Nazi sympathizers, only to once again unknowingly find himself immersed in an international plot. The films use retro techniques and music to emulate the filmmaking style of the periods in which they are set.
The MPI Media Group will release a boxed 50-DVD set of the entire “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” sitcom series on Dec. 19. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: The Official Restored Complete Series carries a suggested retail price of $259.98. “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” aired on ABC-TV for 14 seasons, beginning in 1952. The series was brought to the screen by the real-life Nelson family: Ozzie and wife Harriet with their sons David and Rick, all portraying themselves in a blend of fact-meets-fiction comedy. “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” chronicled the daily lives of the Nelson family as David and Ricky grew up before millions of weekly viewers. For the very first time, in association with the Nelson family, the entire series has been digitally restored from the original film negatives for superior picture quality. MPI has been rolling out multi-season sets over the past year and a half, beginning with the first two seasons in June 2022. The Official Restored Complete Series presents all 435 episodes on 50 discs — including the rare final season in color — plus hours of bonus content, including new featurettes with family and cast members, promotional spots, cast commercials, home movies and more.
Lionsgate’s popular “Hunger Games” and “Expendables” action franchises are available in new four-film 4K Steelbook collections exclusively at Walmart. The “Expendables” films star Sylvester Stallone (who also directed the first entry in the series) along with a cadre of action heroes. The series follows a group of combat vets turned mercenaries delivering justice the only way they know how. Featured stars in the films include Jason Statham, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Megan Fox and Dolph Lundgren. The set was timed for the release of The Expendables 4, which it includes. The “Hunger Games” movies star Jennifer Lawrence as a contestant in a dystopian future were society entertains itself by conscripting teens to fight to the death. The set was timed to promote the theatrical release of the prequel film The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Both collections also include the movies on regular Blu-ray and include digital copy codes.
From the Criterion Collection Comes Tod Browning’s Sideshow Shockers, a three-film set that includes 1925’s The Mystic, 1927’s The Unknown and 1932’s Freaks. Browning, an edgy auteur from the early days of Hollywood, “drew on his experiences as a circus performer to create subversive pulp entertainments set amid the world of traveling sideshows, which, with their air of the exotic and the disreputable, provided a pungent backdrop for his sordid tales of outcasts, cons, villains, and vagabonds,” according to Criterion’s description of the set, which is offered on both Blu-ray Disc and DVD with myriad bonus materials.
From the Indicator label comes the limited-edition The Criminal Acts of Tod Slaughter: Eight Blood-and-Thunder Entertainments 1935-1940 Blu-ray boxed set. Norman Carter ‘Tod’ Slaughter was the first icon of British horror cinema, but chose to remain in the U.K. rather than take his acting talents to Hollywood. The collection, limited to a run of 6,000 and available in both the United States and United Kingdom, includes 1935’s Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn from director Milton Rosmer; 1936’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street directed by George King; 1936’s The Crimes of Stephen Hawke, directed by King; 1937’s It’s Never Too Late to Mend, directed by David MacDonald; 1937’s The Ticket of Leave Man, directed by King; 1938’s Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror, directed by King; 1939’s The Face at the Window, directed by King; and 1940’s Crimes at the Dark House, directed by MacDonald. The comprehensive collection also includes a number of rare shorts and newsreel items.
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In addition, thanks to all-region players and region-free 4K discs, American collectors aren’t limited to domestic releases, with many turning to international markets for options that aren’t yet available stateside.
For example, Rauseo pointed out Lionsgate’s recent horror film Talk to Me is available in a special collector’s edition from Australian distributor Umbrella Entertainment. The set includes a Steelbook with the film on 4K and Blu-ray discs, a 48-page behind-the-scenes book, eight art cards and a reversible poster in a rigid outer case.
“Umbrella Entertainment has outdone themselves,” Rauseo said. “Umbrella distributed the film in Australia, it was created by Australian YouTubers RackaRacka, and naturally Australia is getting the best version of the film on physical media. However, this collector’s set can be easily imported to the U.S. or other countries, and provides region free playback for customers.”
Originally listed for $60 through Umbrella’s website, the set was limited to 3,000 copies and has since sold out, but can now be found on eBay for about $160.
The Digital Bits’ Bjork was keen on Arrow’s region-free Hellraiser: Quartet of Torment 4K set released in October in the United Kingdom.
“Arrow’s new ‘Hellraiser’ is really impressive,” Bjork said. “It raises the bar for their packaging to Second Sight levels, and I don’t say that lightly. From the artwork to the overall packaging design and the 200-page book, it’s top notch across the board. The transfers look great from what I’ve seen, and the extras are comprehensive.”
The Quartet of Torment is a follow-up to Arrow’s 2016 Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box Blu-ray set, which contained the first three “Hellraiser” films — the 1987 original Hellraiser directed by Clive Barker, 1988’s Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and 1992’s Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. To these the Quartet adds 1996’s Hellraiser: Bloodline.
“I like that they went the extra mile and added Bloodline this time around, instead of just the first three like on their previous Blu-ray set,” Bjork said. “It has its issues, but it did get a theatrical release and had at least marginal involvement from Clive Barker, so it really does belong in the set with the others. Plus, it’s really cool that they were able to include the workprint version.”
Sold out from the Arrow website, Hellraiser: Quartet of Torment can be found on eBay for around $150.