In August of 2013, Criterion proudly announced the coming of the dual format packaging for November of that year. Peter Becker took the time to blog a very descriptive post on their thinking around this decision. The reasons were (and still are) quite compelling for this paean to economies of scale.
Having two physical packages to produce has cut those economies of scale in half. Instead of one big, cost-effective run of DVD packaging, we now need two different runs, each about half as big, one for Blu-ray and one for DVD. But to make the packaging affordable on a per-unit basis, we still need to run the original big, cost-effective quantity of each, meaning, essentially, making twice what we need. The Blu-ray may sell briskly, and the packaging may need to be reordered fairly soon, but the DVD stocks will take longer to dwindle. When we finally run out of DVD packaging, printing another big, cost-effective run will not be an option, because we would never sell enough of the copies to pay for the packaging. And at the price for printing a small run, we might be losing money on every copy we sell. What do we do?
And so from November 26th, 2013 until August 24th of 2014, Criterion released a total of 40 dual format packages during this grand experiment. A combination of new releases, new printings of previous releases, and even full-on upgrades were produced. Various packaging formats were used from digipaks, massive boxsets, cardboard sleeves, to slightly modified plastic cases.
And then, not even 10 months later.
Peter Becker again:
Last November, when we announced that we would start releasing dual-format editions, we hoped that we had found an alternative that would address our concerns about packaging costs across two formats, while guaranteeing that both DVD and Blu-ray customers would still have access to an identical product. While we did solve that problem, no one seemed particularly happy with the solution. Blu-ray customers didn’t like making room for DVDs they didn’t want, and DVD customers didn’t like paying more to get a Blu-ray they couldn’t play. We soon found that we had to start releasing stand-alone DVD editions alongside the dual-format ones because a fairly large proportion of our audience has not made the leap to Blu-ray yet. And once we had separate DVD editions, what was the point of putting DVDs in with the Blu-rays? A good question.
And with that the dual format medium was dead.
Or was it?
May 30th, 2017 brought the release of the World Cinema Project Vol. 2 in all its gargantuan dual format heft. It appears that as long as Scorsese continues to provide Criterion with these beautiful bricks of cinema, the format won’t truly be put to rest.