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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

‘X-Files: I Want to Believe’: 1-disc, 2-disc, or 3-disc DVD?

Geez, you practically need to be a federal agent to get the scoop on what’s available in what DVD package these days. It’s almost as if the DVD companies want you to be confused, so that, perhaps, you’ll just spring for the most expensive set they’re offering just so’s you don’t miss out on anything.

Like the multiple new DVD offerings just out last week concerning The X-Files: I Want to Believe. I received, from Fox Home Entertainment, a two-disc screener set of the Region 1 release. That is, not a commercial package — which is sometimes what the studios send for review, simply a prerelease copy of what everyone will be able to go and buy in a store on the street date — but instead sample versions of the discs that would be in those consumer sets (and none of the liner notes or cover art or any explanatory material). One DVD contained both the theatrical version of the film as well as a director’s cut, plus some bonus material, like audio commentary by writer-director Chris Carter and writer-producer Frank Spotnitz. The other DVD contained more bonus material (a three-part making-of documentary).
But when I went to Amazon U.S., I saw not a two-disc set for sale, but a single-disc package and a three-disc set. Say what? What was on the single disc was easy to figure out: it’s that disc with the two versions of the movie and the audio commentary. But what was on that third disc of the other set? I mean, Amazon says that three-disc set is the “Three-Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy.” That says to me, “You get three discs of stuff, plus a digital copy you can upload to your iPhone or laptop or whatever.” It turns out, though, that that third disc contains the digital copy, and not additional material that I was not given to review. I think that’s a bit of a cheat on Amazon’s part, making it sound like you’re getting more than you’re getting, but never mind.

It gets weirder.

Head over to Amazon U.K., and you find a single-disc version of the film (and another single-disc package that includes an “exclusive free” poster), and then a “2 disc Special Edition including Bonus Digital Copy”! As far as I can tell (I was not offered Region 2 discs to preview), this is, in fact, the same as the “three-disc” set for sale in Region 1, even though Amazon U.K. is calling this one (more accurately) a “two-disc” set.

You’d think the company could get itself on the same page about the same product. But then I guess I’d be out of a job.

Anyway, this is all in aid of pointing out that if you’re trying to decide whether to buy the single-disc version of the movie or the two/three-disc version, I’ve got a piece up at Film.com on The X-Files: I Want to Believe on DVD that you might want to check out. I offer some advice about whether you really need that extra disc.

Oh, and my giveaway of an X-Files DVD and blu-ray runs through the end of the week. Funnily enough, I have no idea whether the winners will get single-disc or multidisc copies: I’ll just pass their names onto the contest sponsor and ya gets what ya gets.

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  • To be fair to Amazon, I really doubt that they wrote that copy. I’m sure it’s provided by the maker of the product and with the zillions of things Amazon sells they can’t go over every description with a fine-toothed comb.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure of that. There’s also, for instance, the Wall-E (Three-Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy), and that’s from another studio.

    And anyway, that would not explain how the two *X-Files* packages, from the same company, are labelled differently on either side of the Atlantic. It makes me suspect that there may be stricter laws about how much you can stretch the truth on consumer packaging in the U.K.

  • Well, the front of that Wall-E box says “three disc special edition” and then also says “digital copy” below that. So if anything, you’d be faulting Amazon for not opening up the DVD, realizing that was all that was on the third disc, and changing the description. Which, given that they sell a zillion different things, is probably a bit much to ask.

    I’m not just completely guessing here, either. I work at a company that does pretty major online retail business. And I’m not involved in the putting things up on the site end of it, but I happen to know that we get our descriptions from the manufacturer and pretty much put them up verbatim. I wish we didn’t, it’d make things a lot easier and cleaner to deal with from the sales side and for the customers browsing the site, but when you’re dealing with literally hundreds of thousands of items with the kind of turnover Amazon surely gets on new products coming in, it’s just not really feasible. And as far as it being different on the UK side, I guarantee you that’s a completely separate division, might as well be a different company altogether. That’s how it is with our Canadian side.

    Given the little image and explanation of what a “digital copy” is underneath those listings, I’d imagine the “+ digital copy” thing is just a standard thing applied to any media that comes with that. I mean, listen, I’m cynical and all, I’m sure they do all sorts of shady things and this may be an example of that, but I’m inclined to think it’s probably pretty innocuous. Occam’s Razor and all that.

  • MaryAnn

    Well, then perhaps we should fault the DVD distributors? Because someone, somewhere, is creating misleading sales copy.

  • MaryAnn

    Nope, I’m taking that back. I just looked at my *Wall-E* packaging, and it does not say anything like “three discs PLUS digital copy.” And the back cover — which Amazon does not make available to shoppers — does clearly state that the third disc is the digital copy.

    I’m still blaming Amazon.

  • Oh sure, someone along the line phrased it misleadingly. But the image of Wall-E up on Amazon’s site says “3-Disc Special Edition” and then underneath that it says “Digital Copy”. (The picture’s right here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B001EOQWEO/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=130&s=dvd) And that’s how I’ve seen it in stores.

    I dunno, you can blame Amazon if you really want. It’s not like you’re accusing them of genocide, so whatever. But I work at a company that has tens of thousands of products on our website, and I know we don’t write the copy for them, because it would just be too much. Amazon has at least hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of items on their site. I can absolutely guarantee you they’re not personally writing the copy for those items.

  • MaryAnn

    Yes, I really want to blame Amazon. I think misleading marketing is worth complaining about.

    I’m sure your explanation — that the image of the DVD is there for anyone to see — would be what Amazon might use to justify its marketing. But the fact remains that fewer people will click on that image to read the actual box than will see Amazon’s big “Three Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy.”

    When DVDs from different distributors are utilizing the same misleading sales copy on Amazon, I feel pretty comfortable laying the blame at the feet of the retailer, not the manufacturer.

  • Mark

    I think misleading marketing is worth complaining about.

    If you scroll to the bottom of the Amazon page for this DVD set, there’s a section labeled “Feedback”. You can send a message to customer service or request the title be changed (‘… with digiatl copy’? ‘ … including digital copy’?). Amazon really does take customer feedback seriously, but they need to get the feedback first.

    (disclaimer: I work for Amazon).

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