Close Encounters

Unboxed and Deconstructed: The ‘Close Encounters’ Ultra HD Gift Set

The desire among studios to create elaborate and gimmicky collector’s edition packaging for movies on disc sometimes hits the point of absurdity – especially when, as I experienced recently with the ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind‘ Ultra HD Gift Set, the gimmicks built into the package don’t even work.

In this instance, I was very fortunate that I didn’t pay for it. Our reviewer E. received an extra copy of the gift set and was gracious enough to send it my way. I already had the old Blu-ray from 2007 and hadn’t planned to upgrade, but I’m curious to see the updated video transfer, both on the included Blu-ray and UHD discs. (Reportedly, the new Blu-ray suffers some contrast boosting and black crush issues not present on the UHD.) Personally, I would have been fine with just the standard keepcase edition, but I certainly wasn’t going to refuse the deluxe version.

The gift set comes in an oversized box with a translucent “window” across the front, behind which stand a bunch of silhouettes of aliens.

Close Encounters Ultra HD Gift Set

To get to the discs, you remove the top.

Close Encounters Gift Set - Top Off

Inside are the Blu-ray/UHD keepcase (in a slipcover) and a photo booklet with images from the film.

Close Encounters Gift Set - Contents

When you press this button on the side of the box, the window is supposed to light up and a speaker will play the famous five-note musical greeting heard at the end of the movie.

Close Encounters Gift Set - Activation Button

Unfortunately, when I pressed the button, nothing happened! This was a brand new copy fresh out of the shrinkwrap, and it was already dead.

Assuming that the batteries must have drained, I peered inside the box to see if I could replace them.

Close Encounters Gift Set - Peering Inside

Not only is nothing visible at first glance, the package is not at all designed to be disassembled. Everything is either taped or glued in place, and I had to peel and pry the cardboard flaps out. Even as careful as I tried to be, this unavoidably caused creases and folds in the carboard which will probably never look right again.

The first thing I was able to access was the speaker, which sits behind the back panel. This did me no good on its own.

Close Encounters Gift Set - Taking It Apart 1

Close Encounters Gift Set - Taking It Apart 2

Some more prying got me to the sound and light board. You can see three batteries on it. Frustratingly, the board is glued to the bottom of the box and there’s no way to get it out without totally destroying the package.

Close Encounters Gift Set - Taking It Apart 3

I wasn’t willing to go that far. Luckily, the simple act of jostling the wires around somehow got it working again. Apparently, the batteries weren’t dead after all. One of the wires must have been loose, and I guess I bumped it back into place.

This was very lucky. I was also able to reassemble the box without too much damage visible from an external inspection. A little scotch tape hidden away on the inside of the box holds everything back together again. With the top of the box back in place, it looks almost good as new.

All that work, and this is the amazing result I have to show for it. Sigh…

Now with the peace of mind that everything is working again, I can safely file this box set away on my shelf, never to push the dumb button again.

Someday these batteries will go dead, however, and it’s ridiculous that the package offers no way to get them out or replace them. I feel bad for anyone who actually paid the premium price for this thing.

12 comments

  1. I’ve bought a couple of elaborate gift sets in the past. But no more. My collection already takes up too much space, and I’d rather have the slimmest cover possible for my movies. I have actually rebought a few titles when they’re relased as a trilogy, even if I already have all the individual titles, and the new packaging simply contain the same discs as the individual releases. Simply to save shelf space.

    (I tend to wait until they’re on sale, though)

  2. photogdave

    Unfortunately we can’t expect the studios to spend enough on design and manufacturing to make these gimmicky items serviceable. It would likely quadruple the cost of an already expensive item and make it impossible to sell.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if they lose money on them as it is but just offset the loss with regular version sales.

  3. The batteries is an interesting issue. I used to collect the Star Trek: The Next Generation toys. Several came with the batteries preinstalled (you reached through a hole in the plastic or cardbord to touch a button). This lead to an interesting delima – The item is more valuable as a collector’s item if you leave it sealed. However, after a couple of years, those batteries are going to leak.

    With an item like this, where you cannot get to the batteries, this nice collector’s set, in a couple of years, is going to suffer from being stained with battery acid

  4. Timcharger

    Gotta use a screwdriver to push the button, Josh? Can’t get any fingerprints on it?

    E, you know you tested it and knew that copy was defective when you sent it to Josh, right? We would all do that same thing.
    “What? Josh? Really, it doesn’t work?!”
    🙂

    Josh, fist bump! In this crowd, you knew we would cheer this accomplishment. Share this achievement with Wifey, eye rolls and head shaking.

    • I would imagine that any of these that get shipped are probably going to have similar issues if they are poorly packaged. Not saying that E didn’t properly package it, but somehow it just makes me chuckle to think of my mail carrier going “is someone’s phone going off?”

  5. This set reminds me of ‘Pulse’ by Pink Floyd. The CD case (first pressing) had a blinking red light, which allowed you to easily find the CD in your collection. There was no way to replace it either.

  6. Csm101

    For as gimmicky as the packaging is, I do like that they included the regular uhd box to be able to comfortably store in one’s library. I saw this at the store last week and that copy was working. I’d bite for $20.

  7. RBBrittain

    That’s what I used to call a “box’o’swag” back in regular Blu-ray’s heyday, when WB was the worst offender. Sad to see Sony is heading down the same road; their special packaging used to make a lot more sense than WB’s.

  8. IMO it’s absurd that Sony chose to this *and* a standard packaging 1080 BD re-release *and* a standard packaging UHD BD *and* a Best Buy exclusive Steelbook UHD BD. And my sense of it is that this title is not selling well.

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