Why is 'Reuben, Reuben' not on DVD?
December 2, 2009 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Why isn't this superb film on DVD?

'Reuben, Reuben' is a wonderful, warm, touching and superbly written and acted movie.


Yet - despite the fact that lead actor Tom Conti was Oscar nominated for his performance - it has never been released on DVD.

Given the vast amount of dross and obscurity which does make it onto the shelves, can anyone tell me why this shining cinematic light is being hidden under a corporate bushel?

posted by Blackwatch to Media & Arts (13 answers total)
I don't know, but it sounds like a good movie.

In case you are interested, you can use videoeta.com to notify you when it is available. Also, it is available on eBay as VHS, so if you were desperate to do so, you could get the VHS converted to DVD.
posted by SNACKeR at 7:12 AM on December 2, 2009

It's either a rights issue, or the studio doesn't think it can make any money off of it. There's lots of good stuff you can't get on DVD.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:13 AM on December 2, 2009

Probably one of the following:

1. Nobody wants to front the costs to produce a number of DVDs sufficient to market the product, because they're not convinced the product will sell.
2. Ownership of the property, rights, etc. is in question, in court, or otherwise tied up, making it impossible to distribute it in other media markets.
2.5. Music rights or other media rights for something appearing in the film was cleared for theatrical release but not any other releases, and music clearance for a DVD issue isn't affordable/possible. This has happened to a fair number of TV shows, for instance.
3. It isn't an appealing film to release on DVD, in that it has limited appeal, doesn't fit into any established marketing niche, and doesn't have bankable stars in it.

There are no shortage of great movies that aren't available on DVD, and terrible movies that are. Why did it take over a decade to release Heavenly Creatures in a non-distorted aspect ratio? Why can't you find a decent copy of Lynch's "Lost Highway" for love or money?

Some companies (Anchor Bay springs to mind) are actually reactive, and will look into releasing DVDs if there seems to be sufficient support to justify their release. If this movie is truly worth release, try to build a following to clamor for its issue: start a petition or a Facebook group or something. If enough people want it, somebody will make it happen.
posted by Shepherd at 7:14 AM on December 2, 2009

What Shepherd said. Nothing to do with quality, everything to do with marketability.
posted by Rykey at 7:18 AM on December 2, 2009

Well, you can take solace in the fact that it's not alone by a long shot. Sometimes the rights to the movie are in dispute, and sometimes the rights holders don't want the movie to be re-released for personal reasons (as in the case of the surviving ex-Beatles with Let It Be).
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:19 AM on December 2, 2009

Shepherd: Why can't you find a decent copy of Lynch's "Lost Highway" for love or money?

FYI, Lost Highway was finally given a real region-1 release earlier this year. No more shitty Candian VHS boots.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:00 AM on December 2, 2009

It's a long shot, but keep an eye on Netflix -- their online streaming has some titles that have never been on DVD.
posted by JanetLand at 8:03 AM on December 2, 2009

Because it won't sell as much as other (crap) movies. That's capitalism.
posted by xammerboy at 8:09 AM on December 2, 2009

'Reuben, Reuben' is a wonderful, warm, touching and superbly written and acted movie.

I have to second this. I saw this ages ago and is one of the films I continually look for, so I can share it with people. Have never understood why this is not available. *sniff*
posted by fluffycreature at 8:41 AM on December 2, 2009

It's available on Amazon (VHS).

It's a wonderful movie. I suspect the movie rights are owned by some dentist who's refusing to allow its release.

The best chance for a DVD might be having Criterion pick it up. That's a long shot.
posted by 26.2 at 8:49 AM on December 2, 2009

Best answer: I sent this thread to a friend of mine. He writes back:

FYI, Lost Highway was finally given a real region-1 release earlier this year.

Lost Highway has been available as a R1 release for years, just not in its original aspect ratio, which it now is.

Your question has pretty much been answered thoroughly so far but I'll address the second half: why are so many crap movies on dvd? If a movie is out and out shit and the rights holder knows it, they have no incentive to not release the title to a third party interested in putting it out. They believe they can make more by selling the right to release it than by releasing it. This is how niche labels make it in this world. Blue Underground, USA Films, Front Row Entertainment... these companies are very good at knowing how to sell little-known films so they buy the rights for cheap from the studio or rights holder and run with it.

So it basically comes down more to a lack of capabilities on the part of the rights holder. Their uncertainty works in the title's favor. This is also what generally happens with new formats. It happened with VHS and Beta and it happened with DVD. For instance, when DVD was first launched, studios had no idea if it was gonna fly. Criterion, then a manufacturer of Laserdiscs, a very niche market, managed to get studios to agree to let Criterion release choice titles on the format: Silence of the Lambs, Robocop, Seventh Samurai, Spinal Tap... the rights holders gave permission because they didn't want to invest the money in a format that might fail. Criterion got X years to try (I think it was 3) and make a go of it. Of course, the format took off and the titles went out of print in Crit's catalog immediately after the initial contract period ended.

Not understanding the way the business works, many people who buy Criterion asked why the company was so stupid as to lose the rights on these great titles. They simply didn't have any choice and in fact, they weren't stupid, they were very smart in believing the format would take off.

I've worked on and off in entertainment retail for a few years now and Blu-Ray, to my recollection, is the first format that didn't get this treatment. That is, the studios/rights holders did not stupidly parcel out their catalog to smaller companies. The irony is of course that Blu-Ray sales, at least from my own retail perspective, are very low.

One thing, however, has remained the same for Blu-Ray as it did for other formats: studios are taking advantage of early adopters by releasing absolutely horrible catalog titles in the hopes that people will buy them because the selection of what's available is so poor. "Damn, I bought a player but all of these movies suck. Still, I spent all that money and need something to watch... guess I'll buy Click."

As I said, this has happened with every format. However, the difference with Blu-Ray is that the 3rd party companies aren't popping up as they did with the other formats. (One exception that immediately comes to mind is, again, Criterion.) Since the niche companies aren't releasing the cult and art-house titles (something they did early with the other formats), the people keen on those titles--true film lovers who buy heaps of movies--have no incentive to adopt the format. Instead, BR is mostly being purchased (from my perspective) by average movie goers who are then being sold less than average catalog dreck. Personally, and I'll probably look like a fool saying this, I give Blu-Ray two years before it gets eclipsed by another format or downloading.

Back on track, yes, Reuben Reuben is a nice film. I've seen torrents of it around, but it's probably a transfer from VHS. Still, might be useful to the OP if they just want to see it and don't care that it's not pristine. The place-which-shall-not-be-named-that-starts-with-a-K definitely has such a torrent.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:52 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Kinternet? ktorrent?
posted by now i'm piste at 12:31 PM on December 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all your input.

For what it's worth, Amazon appears to have Lost Highway on DVD - can't speak for the quality though.

Looks like I'll just have to wait and hope!

Thanks again.
posted by Blackwatch at 2:33 AM on December 3, 2009

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