Among Blu-ray collectors, the name Twilight Time inspires either admiration or resentment. The company has a controversial sales model that angers some potential buyers, even as others are happy to see certain movie titles released on Blu-ray at all. Have you bought any Twilight Time discs? Tell us which ones.
Since appearing on the scene a few years ago, Twilight Time has striven to make a name for itself as a boutique brand for discerning cinephiles, much like the Criterion Collection – and at Criterion prices. The company licenses catalog titles from the major studios (primarily Sony and Fox) that those studios have no interest in releasing themselves. Some of these movies are fairly famous (such as popular rom-com ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and cult horror flick ‘Fright Night’) while others are incredibly obscure. Again like Criterion, even the obscure titles generally offer some potential interest to film connoisseurs.
Unfortunately, Twilight Time is a small player in a big market and must compete with several other labels that do basically the same thing – including Criterion, Olive Films and Shout! Factory, among others. What distinguishes Twilight Time, for better or worse, is its frustrating sales model that limits distribution to one outlet (Screen Archives, which has a very rudimentary web site that looks like it was designed circa 1997) and has a fixed limit of only 3,000 copies per title. Once a disc sells out, it’s gone.
In part, the “limited edition” angle is a promotional gimmick to drum up interest among collectors. However, it’s also a contractual requirement in the label’s licensing agreement. Twilight Time is only authorized to sell 3,000 copies of each movie and cannot extend the pressing runs. This has proven problematic for high-interest cult titles – especially horror titles like the ‘Night of the Living Dead’ remake or John Carpenter’s ‘Christine’, which have sold out quickly, mostly to eBay speculators.
Realistically, however, 3,000 copies is a very big run for a catalog title on Blu-ray. In the current market, most catalog titles, even those sold in every Walmart and Best Buy in the nation, struggle to reach a third of that number. Very few Twilight Time discs have actually sold through their 3,000 copy runs. Even most of the earliest Twilight Time releases are still available at Screen Archives today. (I remember reading great consternation in our site forum that Oscar winner ‘As Good As It Gets’ would be limited to only 3,000 copies that would surely sell out in a blink, yet that disc is still in stock more than a year later.)
Another point of contention for some buyers is Twilight Time’s pricing. Most Blu-rays sell for $30 or more, and never go on sale. That’s a lot for a catalog title. Right or wrong, consumers have seen a steady devaluation of catalog product in the market, and have grown accustomed to picking up Blu-rays for older movies at much lower prices.
A prestige brand like Criterion justifies its high prices by providing conscientious video/audio remastering and informative new supplemental content. Unlike Criterion, Twilight Time does not strike any new film-to-video transfers or create any new bonus features of its own. What you get on a Twilight Time disc is at the mercy of what materials the original studio has provided. While Sony is usually pretty good about ensuring solid video and audio quality on its masters, Fox often dumps old video transfers into Twilight Time’s hands, for movies not considered worth the cost-benefit of remastering. (If the movie had high sales potential, Fox would remaster and release it under the Fox banner rather than license it out – whereas Sony has abandoned catalog titles on Blu-ray almost altogether and licenses out all but the crown jewels of its collection.) Fox-sourced discs like ‘Demetrius and the Gladiators’ and ‘Titus’ are notorious for their problematic video quality. Even though really bad discs like those are a minority, occasional problems like this can make Twilight Time’s high pricing difficult to swallow.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with Twilight Time’s business model. Although I haven’t gone out of my way to build a Twilight Time collection, I’ve purchased several titles that interested me and that I felt were worth the money. I find most of the complaints about pricing to be the worst form of whining entitlement. If not for Twilight Time, most of the movies it has licensed would never be released on Blu-ray at all. If I don’t feel that a movie sold by Twilight Time is worth the $30 or more asking price, then I simply don’t need to own that movie and will spend my money on something else, simple as that.
I currently own ‘The Big Heat’, ‘Bite the Bullet’, ‘Body Double’, ‘The Fury’, ‘Swamp Water’, ‘Our Man Flint and its sequel ‘In Like Flint’. I also intend to purchase David Lynch’s ‘Wild at Heart’ when it opens for preorder.
The following poll should include every Twilight Time Blu-ray released to date, including out of print titles, plus movies announced for release in the near future. Have you bought any of these?