We told you last week that Warner Home Video was getting close to making an official announcement on the long-awaited release of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy on Blu-ray, and now they've finally gone and done it. Their 6-disc The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Blu-ray box set will finally arrive in stores on 4/6/2010 (SRP $99.98 - available for pre-order on Amazon NOW for just $69.99), obviously on their New Line label. As we've reported previously, the box set will contain only the theatrical versions of the three films. Per Warner's press release "Extended versions of the films will be released at a later date on Blu-ray Disc." Our own sources tell us that the extended cuts are being held back at director Peter Jackson's request so that he can prepare more elaborate Blu-ray releases of those for debut closer to the theatrical and home video release of the two Hobbit films (now due in 2011 and 2012).
Most every Ring-bearer amongst my circle of friends groaned when they heard this news. Why double-dip, when most anyone with half a brain is going to skip the truncated releases and go straight for the full-blown extended cut?
The answer, I think, lies in something I gleaned a while back when talking to the folks at FUNimation about their "Viridian" line of series reissues. One of the reasons there's such a constant stream of reissues of the same material — original individual volumes, series set, economy series set, etc. — is to keep a steady profit stream coming in. If you have a title you know you can sell a certain number of copies of — even if it's being eclipsed by something else later on — you get it out there and take what you can from it.
The other is to establish "shelf presence". If you don't have something with your name and logo on it on the shelves of Best Buy and Target, you might as well not exist anymore. (I sense a parallel with the Asian film industry, specifically Hong Kong: if you didn't show up in a movie every four months or so, people assumed your career was over.)
Reason #2 is just that much more proof the retailers, not the consumers, are the ones who call most of the shots here.
I don't blame Peter Jackson here: he wants to give his fans something worth waiting for. New Line and Warner Brothers evidently plan to keep the wheels of commerce turning with or without him.