Limited Editions Unlimited Bullshit: Twilight Time Edition
I have about 4,000 records. Give or take. It’s hard to keep track with a collection that spans two continents. A lot of time people ask me what the “most valuable” record in my collection is, and to be honest, I rarely know of the top of my head. That’s the kind of thing that changes on a regular basis. Skimming my Discogs page right now, it would appear that the most valuable record in my stacks is my copy of Velvet Underground & Nico, complete with in-tact banana and Verve sticker on the back. On a good day my copy can probably go for about $300 – $400. Most of the other very valuable records in my collection go for around $100 – $200, and include hard-to-find vintage soundtracks, a ton of rare Pearl Jam and Nirvana LPs, and a few old Krautrock first pressings.
Most of these have one thing in common: they weren’t designed to be collectibles, it just kind of worked out that way. The Nirvana and Pearl Jam LPs were pressed at a time when no one was buying vinyl, so they were made to fit a very low demand. Ditto for the soundtracks. The Krautrock records are valuable because demand for them has grown tremendously over the years, and mine happen to be in very good condition – which in itself is a rarity.
My point is that I have nothing against collectibles. I’m a collector after all. I get that people want rare shit. That the act of it being rare makes it a commodity. And that the “thrill of the hunt” is part of what makes collecting records, games, or anything for that matter, so fun.
But while I love rare items, genuine scarcities whose value has increased due to unforeseen circumstances, “collectible” materials, items made scarce on purpose for no other reason than to limit supply versus demand, piss me the fuck off.
I’ve written about this before, both those times my ire was directed at the record industry’s growing tendency for this nonsense. Since then, I’m happy to see that this is actually going away to some extent. Death Waltz and other horror soundtrack labels are trying their hardest to secure deals that ensure non-limited edition variants of their releases stay in print. And Record Store Day disdain seems to be growing every year, resulting in less super high-demand items to be hawked on eBay for exorbitant prices. It appears the people have spoken, and they’re letting businesses know that they don’t much care for this kind of bullshit.
It appears that the Twilight Time didn’t get the memo though.
For those not in the know, Twilight Time is a boutique home video label that specializes in limited edition blu-rays of rare and hard-to-find films. Most of their titles only get a single pressing, typically limited to a scant 3,000 units.
And to be honest, this is usually fine. Because they often deal in titles that have an extremely limited demand. Not many people want Blu-rays of Walter Hill’s Driver, or The Flim-Flam Man. Producing these titles in limited quantities is, quite frankly, the only way they’ll get released on Blu-ray, so that makes sense.
But Night Of the Living Dead (1990), The Blob (1988), Christine, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, Fright Night, Body Double, these are pretty big titles, or at least titles with substantial cult followings that far exceed Twilight Time’s typical 3,000-5,000 copy runs. You’d think that in these cases, where the titles sell out well before the actual street date, that they’d up the initial print run or, more ideally, issue a second printing. This would not only fight off eBay scalpers, who make a pretty penny on titles like this, but it would, y’know, make them more freaking money. But alas, all of the titles in question are long out of print. If you want them now you have to head off to eBay and pay out the nose for them.
So basically, if I want to own two of my favorite movies of all-time, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia and Fright Night, on Blu-ray, I’m just screwed. I’m screwed because I’m not up on my obscure home video label press releases. Or because I didn’t have enough money to pre-order a title in time. Or I have a life and just don’t notice these things until they actually “come out” and reviews go online.
Shit like this isn’t just bad business, it’s anti-business. It actively turns people away from your business. Why on earth would a company choose a business model that deliberately alienates its customer base? Aside from the eBay scalpers, who benefits?
And make no mistake, scalpers are benefiting big. Over 150 copies of Twilight Time’s recent Fright Night release have been flipped on eBay, usually for close to $80. Over 100! Out of just 5,000! And who knows how many more are being held onto for the same purpose. It would not surprise me if 5% to 10% of the Fright Night Blu-rays were sold to scalpers. It would also not surprise me if at least a handful of them were withheld by Twilight Time to be sold on eBay and an exaggerated profit. That last claim is a bold one, I know. But considering the disdain that Twilight Time has for its customers, I wouldn’t put it past them.
Yes, disdain. In fact, I’m going to go one up on that and say that Twilight Time actively hates their customers. I saw this first-hand when I went to Twilight Time’s Facebook page to see if anyone was complaining about the limited run of Fright Night. I found a couple snarky comments about that, and I also found some complaining about the picture quality of the release. To which, Twilight Time was less than kind.
I have rarely seen a response by a company as tone deaf as that one. Deny, deflect and insult really isn’t a good tactic to take, especially when the problem at hand can be so easily seen by anyone who bought the disc, as additional commenters on the thread brought up, complete with screen shots. Twilight Time has yet to reply to the evidence. Not surprising.
Perhaps the most insulting, and most telling, part of Twilight Time’s anti-customer rant is the conclusion, where they say ” you have the choice of supporting the label or not.”
Actually, no. No they don’t.
I am consistently amazed at the “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” argument for situations like this. That implies the customers have an option. That, if they don’t like Twilight Time’s Blu-ray then they can just go out and choose from any of the other Fright Night Blu-ray releases out there. But that’s not how this shit works. It’s not like when I stopped going to Best Buy because of bad customer service and bought my games on Amazon instead. If I want a movie, and a shitty company like Twilight Time picks up the rights in a horrible deal that pisses in the face of the film’s fans, then I really have no choice, do I? If I want the movie, then I have to support them.
Actually, wait. No I don’t. I can just steal them.
That’s the part about this I will never understand. Companies like Twilight Time know the Internet exists, right?. They know that, despite the MPAA’s best efforts, you can still torrent damn near anything if you try hard enough, don’t they? So if I can’t find a copy of Fright Night online at retail price, why shouldn’t I steal it?
Seriously. Who am I hurting? I’m not hurting Twilight Time. They made their bed. They decide to shoot themselves in the foot with a shitty limited distribution deal and they sold the few copies they made. Not my fault they don’t know how to do business. I’m not hurting any legitimate retailers. Companies like Twilight Time rarely sell to shops, they just deal direct with consumers. The only people I’m hurting are the eBay flippers and scalpers, who are pretty high up on the list of people I don’t give a shit about.
I feel bad condoning piracy, but it’s not like companies like Twilight Time give movie fans any choice. Hopefully they get their head out of their asses and figure this out before enough fans get sick of their bullshit.
Or maybe they can just go bankrupt. Fuck ’em. Movies are meant to be seen, not hoarded by companies who hate their customers.