Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bootleg Boom or Bust?

I went to the Chicago Comicon last Saturday (I just can’t call it "Wizard World Chicago"). There aren’t many comic book series that I collect regularly anymore, but I’ve been going to the show for nearly 15 years now. Mostly, I go for the pop culture stuff – movie items, TV, books, etc. There are two great T-shirt dealers that I always visit, and Chicago Comics sets up a great booth filled with interesting books and zines.

The most interesting part of the trip is seeing what the current state of "grey-market" video bootlegs is like. Last year was the last hurrah for VHS boots. This year, all the dealers were selling 95% of their "product" on DVD and had relegated bootleg and even factory pre-record VHS tapes to the $1 bins.

I’ve long thought that the DVD market would be very hurtful to the bootleg market. For such a young format, there have been a surprising number of quality releases of some really obscure material. Companies like Image, Synapse, VCI, Retromedia, Alpha Video and even MGM’s Midnite Movies line have released some long-booted gems in quality editions. It helps to know what has been announced and who has what movie rights. About 4 years ago I almost broke down and picked up a grey-market copy of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, but I knew that an official DVD was in the works. With so much material coming out each and every week on the format, it’s just a matter of time before a particular title is released. Some things, like ‘60s Saturday Morning cartoons or the Star Wars Holiday Special, two bootlegger staples, might be too obscure to ever be released legally. But I’ve recently seen an announcement for the Time Tunnel and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV series on DVD, so the studios are really mining their archives for releases now. I’ve even seen a notice that Disney might release the controversial Song of the South, something I thought I’d never see from them.

The availability of foreign DVDs and region-free players is another factor that I see hurting the bootleggers. They might offer a copy of a foreign release for $15 or $20 but with a little searching you can buy a legal DVD online for just a little more. I find it really surprising that someone would put the effort into copying cheap Hong Kong DVDs for later sale.

On this trip, I discovered many new movies from Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Thailand that I will have to check out soon – Old Boy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Garuda, Explosive City, Shaolin Vs. Evil Dead, Kibakichi 1 and 2, Arahan, The Blade and the French action film Banlieue 13 (reviews here and here). I’ll keep an eye open for more movies at Gen Con next week.

1 comment:

KennKong said...

Shame on you for not collecting Ex Machina and Supreme Power. Nuf Sed.