DVD for less than £2 - an inevitable future?

Over the last few months, most online DVD consumers will have noted a meltdown in the price of DVDs - picking up a decent DVD for £5 is no longer on par with finding a Ming vase beneath your bed and the majors (Fox, Warner, MGM) are releasing DVDs specifically aimed at the budget market with RRPs around £5.

However, a small French firm seems set to give the world of DVD production/distribution a serious wake-up call. I've just received a huge batch of DVDs from Cdiscount.com (sadly they don't post to the UK) and am flabbergasted by how low the pricing has gone - 2€ a DVD to be exact (£1.30)... The French Hard-Discounter's technique seems to be relatively simple - cut out as many middle-(wo)men as possible. Having set themselves up as a DVD editor (DVDY), they buy the rights to films and then sell them via their online store - as many customers have already paid up before the DVDs are sent out (and maybe even pressed!) they have a clear idea of how many DVDs they need and produce depending on the demand.

The unnerving thing about these DVDs is that the quality is well above average (anamorphic transfers are used when needed) and some even include something more than the usual theatrical trailer such as deleted scenes. Unsurprisingly, all the mixes are 2.0 (which for many of the films is ample) but on the face of it, we frequently get that on films that cost more than 10 times that price in the UK. The films are not the usual drivel one would expect at this price but quality independent and/or foreign movies - The Circle, Conspiracy, Eureka, Love Will Tear Us Apart and Of Freaks and Men all appear in the collection but only with French subtitles (though for English language films, that isn't a problem)

Of course, who can complain that the editors of bare-bones DVDs now have to justify their inflated prices? On the other hand though, it may have the perverse effect of preventing any small editor investing substantial amounts of money in extras that inflate the price of a DVD (DTS, commentaries etc). Granted, many of these films were unlikely to receive a lavish treatment from any DVD distributor but imagine they had bagged the rights for In The Mood for Love - would they have given it the same release? Importantly, one should note that these prices are only available online - their previous releases have tended to retail at approximately €10 in mainstream stores though the same may not be true for these DVDs.

The burning question for many readers will probably be will this work in the UK? The French DVD market is rather different to the UK - there's a greater interest in domestic releases and in "art house" movies - meaning that this type of release is probably not too risky in France. However, even if the price is slightly higher, a clever distributor should be able to create something similar and buck the trend of rip-off Britain...

Finally, it also proves how cheap the production of DVDs really is - French law bans selling at a loss meaning that CDiscount.com are making a profit out of these DVDs. Though their DVDs are unlikely to sell much anywhere else than through their website (who would be ready to try to sell DVDs that can be bought much cheaper elsewhere?), it remains an interesting future model for DVD production especially for the cash-strapped arthouse world.

A full list of the DVDs that are part of this series is available here.
Cdiscount.com stopped selling to the UK a few years back and seem unlikely to do so in the near future...

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