Which DVD Titles Are Available?

In the video distribution industry, a title refers to a movie or other production release, such as Snow White, Star Wars, or a boxed edition of a TV series like Babylon 5 First Season. Titles are collectively referred to as software, not to be confused with computer software.

DVDs started off slowly. In 1996, rosy predictions of hundreds of movie titles being sold for Christmas failed to materialize. Only a handful of DVD titles, mostly music videos, were available in Japan for the November 1996 launch of DVDs. The first feature films on DVD appeared in Japan in December, including The Assassin, Blade Runner, Eraser, and The Fugitive from Warner Home Video.

By April, over 150 titles were available in Japan. The first titles released in the United States on March 19, 1997, by Lumivision, authored by AIX Entertainment, were IMAX adaptations: Africa: The Serengeti, Antarctica: An Adventure of a Different Nature, Tropical Rainforest, and Animation Greats. (Other movies such as Batman and Space Jam had been demonstrated earlier but were not full versions available for sale.)

The Warner Brothers U.S. launch followed on March 24 but was limited to seven cities. Almost 19,000 discs were purchased in the first two weeks of the U.S. launch, more than expected. InfoTech predicted over 600 titles by the end of 1997 and more than 8,000 titles by 2000.

By December of 1997, over 1 million individual DVD discs had been shipped, representing about 530 titles. By the end of 1999, over 100 million discs had shipped, representing about 5,000 titles. A year later, over 10,000 titles were available in the United States and over 15,000 were on the market worldwide.

By the end of 2001, about 14,000 titles were available in the United States. In December of 2002, about 23,000 titles were available in the United States. Compared to other launches (such as CDs and LDs), a huge number of titles had been released in a very short time. (Note that this does not include adult titles, which account for an additional 15 percent or so.)

By March 2003, six years after the launch, over 1.5 billion copies of DVD titles had been shipped. A number of DVD launches in Europe were announced with little followthrough, but DVDs became established in Europe around the end of 1998.

The availability of DVD software in Europe was initially about 18 months to a year behind the United States, but this gap has shortened over the years to a delay of only a few months to a few weeks. Many Internet databases can be used to search for DVD titles. Here are a few of the best sites:

  • Internet Movie Database DVD Browser (info on all regions, us.imdb.com/Sections/DVDs)
  • Doug MacLean’s Home Theater Info list (region 1, downloadable list, www.hometheaterinfo.com/dvdlist.htm)
  • DVD Entertainment Group (region 1, searchable and downloadable database, www.dvdinformation.com/titles)
  • Widescreen Review (widescreen-specific DVD titles, www. widescreenreview.com)
  • Most Internet DVD stores also have searchable lists.

DVD-Audio started even slower than DVD-Video. The first commercially available DVD-Audio title, Big Phat Band, was released in October 2000 on the Silverline label of 5.1 Entertainment. Major music labels BMG Entertainment, EMI Music, Universal Music, and Warner Music have committed to DVD-Audio titles, although in the fall of 2001 Universal announced it would release SACD titles first.

As of the end of 2001, just under 200 DVD-Audio titles were available. By mid-2003 about 600 DVD-Audio titles and about 900 SACD titles were available worldwide. The first SACD titles were released in Japan in May of 1999. DVD-ROM computer software is slowly appearing.

Many initial DVD-ROM titles were only available as part of a hardware or software bundle. The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicted that over 13 percent of all software would be available in DVD-ROM format by the end of 1998, but reality didn’t meet expectations. In one sense, DVD-ROMs are simply larger, faster CD-ROMs and contain the same material.

In many cases, CDROMs are big enough that DVD-ROMs are unnecessary, but DVD-ROMs can take advantage of the high-quality video and multichannel audio capabilities being added to many DVD-ROM-equipped computers.

Where Can I Read Reviews of DVDs?

The following sites have reviews of at least 800 discs. The list of DVD review sites at Yahoo is also recommended.

How Do I Find out when a Movie Will Be Available on DVD?

First, check one of the lists and databases mentioned in the previous section to make sure it’s not already available. Then check the upcoming release lists at DVD Review and Laser Scans (www.laserscans.com/upcoming.htm). A release list is also available at Image Entertainment (www.image-entertainment. com), and a good source of info about unannounced titles is the Digital Bits Rumor Mill (www.thedigitalbits.com/rumormill.html).

Why Isn’t My Favorite Movie on DVD?

Many factors determine when a title is released on DVD. Sometimes the director or producer has control over the DVD and video release. Other times it’s up to the studio marketing group or problems may be occurring due to rights.

For example, a DVD might be available in one country or region but not available in another because different studios have distribution rights in different countries. Studios do listen to customers, so let them know which titles you’d like to see.

How Can I Find DVDs with Specific Features or Characteristics?

Use one of the searchable databases listed previously and select the features you’re looking for (anamorphic widescreen, French audio track, Flemish subtitles, and so on). If a database doesn’t include the characteristics you’re looking for, try a different database.

Why Do Some Rental Stores Not Carry Widescreen DVDs?

Some rental chains such as Blockbuster and retailers such as Wal-Mart originally carried only full-screen (pan and scan) versions of movies when both widescreen and full-screen versions were available. This infuriated many DVD fans, who could never countenance watching a non-widescreen version of a movie on DVD.

There was much complaining, including an online petition with over 25,000 signatures. In early 2003 Blockbuster reversed their policy with the following statement: “We made a decision to purchase the majority of titles we bring in on DVD in the widescreen format.

We try to follow our customer preferences. As DVD becomes increasingly popular, they become more familiar with the features and with the benefits of letterboxing. They've learned it's a superior format to full-frame.” Wal-Mart similarly switched to widescreen versions apparently after realizing that they sold better.

How Much Do Players and Drives Cost?

The prices of mass-market DVD movie players range from $40 to $3,000. (Refer to the earlier “Which DVD Players and Drives Are Available?” for more information.) DVD-ROM drives and upgrade kits for computers sell for around $30 to $400. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) drive prices are around $40.

How Much Do Discs Cost?

It varies, but most DVD movies are listed at $20 to $30, with street prices between $15 and $25, even those with supplemental material. Low-priced movies can be found for under $10.

So far DVDs have not followed the initial high-rental-price model of VHS. DVD-ROMs are usually slightly more expensive than CD-ROMs because they contain more, they cost more to replicate, and the market is smaller. But as the installed base of drives grow, DVD-ROMs will eventually cost about the same as CD-ROMs do today.

The following sites help you find the lowest prices and discount coupons: