Mid-Week Poll: Have You Bought Twilight Time Blu-rays?

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?

Which Twilight Time Blu-rays Have You Purchased?

View Results

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  1. Mike

    I like them, and unlike a lot of studios these days, they send us everything for review. Please release Wonder Boys!!

    • Super-VHS

      Wonder Boys is a Paramount title. Paramount doesn’t have a deal with Twilight Time, and they probably won’t have anytime soon (considering their extensive deals with WB and, for deep catalog, Olive.

  2. Mike

    Ordered those Woody Allen flicks the second I saw them on this poll. First I’ve heard about those releases.

    • Super-VHS

      The first you’ve heard…

      And therein lies the problem.

      I’m glad there are several options for those who didn’t know the label and/or blu-ray editions of these films existed.

  3. EM

    None of the poll choices quite fit. I haven’t bought any but have been considering The Other (a favorite of mine…a mindwarping horror movie disguised as a bucolic family drama). The price does give me pause, and it’s not as though I didn’t already have it on DVD…I just want to feel sure the upgrade will be worth the price.

  4. Mike

    I know WB has deal with Paramount, but aside from a DVD rerelease last May, they seem to be in no rush to release Wonder Boys. Hoping that having Douglas in Marvel biz now along with Downey Jr. might finally get my favorite movie an HD release (or rerelease, since all the steaming options disappeared years ago).

  5. The only Twilight Time title I own is the one I reviewed for HDD – Sexy Beast.

    My problem with Twilight Time is the titles I’d really be interested on owning (Body Double is one such example) sell out before reviews are even up, and I’m not sinking $30 on a disc with a potentially bad transfer.

  6. Just bought my first title, “Man In the Dark” in 3-D. Couldn’t be happier with the picture quality, which for me, is most important when buying movies. I regret not getting Fright Night or Christine. I was a little paranoid about ordering online that wasn’t Amazon. I used a Visa gift card. It opened up a whole new world for me because I ordered another pricey and limited edition movie from another website and plan to order from them again. I also have my eye on Enemy Mine. Last I heard, there were about 600 left.

  7. Kyle

    I don’t like the high price tag on catalog titles, especially if I already own it in dvd. However, of all their releases, there’s only two I would buy…but they are both out of print (fright night and notld)

  8. Barsoom Bob

    I have purchased about half a dozen titles from Twilight. Bell Book and Candle, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1957), and the three Harryhausen titles that are not available elsewhere.

    The quality on all my purchases is pretty good but they really are bare bones, which is annoying because I am one that does like to explore the extras. So the price is kind of high, but you are getting something that you can’t get any place else.

    I think you missed a title on your list. I’m sure I purchased a copy of C.B. DeMille’s “The Buccaneer”. That was a mistake, I remembered it from my youth as being a cool movie. But boy was that film outdated, and old C. B. wasn’t trying very hard, it seemed like a film version of a stage play, the costumes looked like they were borrowed from a bad musical. I gave it away. All the other purchases were great and sit proudly in my collection.

    • Josh Zyber

      The Buccaneer is not a Twilight Time release. Screen Archives sells other DVDs and Blu-rays in addition to Twilight Time. Assuming that you’re talking about the 1958 remake (which was produced by DeMille but directed by Anthony Quinn when DeMille took ill), that disc is from Olive Films.

      DeMille’s original 1938 version of The Buccaneer is available on DVD (also from Olive), but I don’t believe it’s available on Blu-ray yet.

  9. some of the Twilight release are ver good but i see that here in the UK titles like THE FURY and PHILADELPHIA are available in even better transfers (THE FURY)and it would not surprise me if Arrow release Christine and Body Double in the near future.So unless its a title im desperate for like Fright Night i wont bother with the Twilight release….

  10. Les

    I do have Enemy Mine on Blu-ray which is a science fiction movie with Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. It has always been a favorite movie from years past. Does seem like I paid $30 for it at the time. Fright Night has always been a favorite of mine as well although I don’t remember if I purchased that on Blu-ray or not. I will have to go home after work and check. If I didn’t, yea, it looks like we are hosed now. On Amazon, the Fright Night Blu-ray sells for $184 to $310 while on Ebay it goes for around $350.

    Thank you for Digital Copies though, cause on Vudu you can pick up the HDX version of Fright Night for $14 or $13 at iTunes. Yea, Blu-rays are a little better video quality than an HDX version but they aren’t $160 to $290 better.

  11. Mac

    The Twilight Time releases I have appear to be of high quality, to me at least. And, they all have subtitles. Not important to some, but very important to others. I refuse to buy from Olive and Shout if they don’t have subtitles.

  12. I pre-ordered ‘As Good As It Gets’ back then, thinking it would sell out that same day. That didn’t happen, indeed, but I was (and still am) very happy I made the purchase. $30 plus $7 dollars shipping = €30, so comparing dollar with euro, I had ‘free shipping’. Expensive, but it’s one of my favourite films of all time.

  13. Hal

    I have bought several titlesm all of which I am pleased with. I understand they have a deal in place with MGM/UA. Hope to see Bad Influence (1990) Bananas (Woody Allen). Not sure if these are under the MGM/UA logo or studio!
    Hope they are considering ‘The China Syndrome’ too!

  14. Chris

    I’m kind of confused, so since Twilight Time doesn’t create new HD transfers like Criterion or Shout…who does the transfer? The studio that’s liscensing Twilight Time the title? Why don’t the studios just release it themselves?

    • Josh Zyber

      Yes, the studio that owns the movies will provide the video masters. They don’t release the movies themselves because they don’t believe these titles have enough sales potential. A big studio like Sony or Fox has way more overhead than Twilight Time. Distributing a movie like As Good As It Gets to hundreds of Walmarts, Targets and Best Buys can be prohibitively expensive. If they only project it to sell around 1,000 copies total, most of which will be plucked from $7 bargain bins, there’s just not enough profit in it.

      In that case, it’s easier for the studio to make a quick buck by licensing the movie out to Twilight Time. TT pays a licensing fee that immediately puts money in the studio’s pocket. Then TT has a window of a couple years to exclusively sell that title through their own distribution model (which has far less overhead) and at their own pricing that they hope will allow them to recoup the licensing fee and make their own profit.

      Meanwhile, the studio can also license that title out to different distributors in other countries, and sell it to TV syndication, Netflix and other streaming partners. Twilight Time’s agreement only covers Blu-ray in the United States.

      • Only in the United States? Really? Then I’m actually surprised they offer overseas shipping! Because going by your theory (and I’m not saying I’m doubting you!), Sony can still release ‘As Good As It Gets’ in, say, Germany. Which they haven’t done so far.

  15. Chris

    Hmmm sounds like TT are gouging their customers by slapping such a high price on bare bones releases. I mean unless these licensing fees they’re paying are astronomical, but even if that’s the case they still have much lower overhead than the major studios so you’d think it’d even out.

    I don’t mind paying a high price for a catalog title if it’s good product (i.e. new high quality transfers and exclusive supplements), but to slap a premium price tag on a bare bones release and call ‘er a day? Sounds a little presumptuous of

    And if the exclusively agreement only lasts for a few years, what happens to someone who has spent major cash on TT releases, only to see the original studio release the same movie (and maybe a better quality disc) a few years down the road? They get screwed! Sort of like all those people that blew a mint on the Criterion “Salo” release a few years back.

    On top of all that, it’s obvious TT doesn’t care about actually supplying their customers with what they want because they only do limited runs, even in instances when the disc promptly sells out. It may be a profitable business model…but not a very customer-orientated one.

    • Why would those that bought a TT release be screwed if the studio re-release it later? A Blu-ray disc is not, and has never been, an investment object. If the super rare blu-ray you bought two years ago is re-released, that means that you got to see the movie as much as you wanted for two years before everybody else.

    • Josh Zyber

      Twilight Time may have less overhead than the major studios, but they also have very small sales volumes.

      Let’s do some basic math here. The label is contractually licensed to a limit of 3,000 copies. In a best-case scenario, they sell all 3,000 units. If they priced them at $10 a pop (which seems to be the rate many buyers want to pay for most catalog titles), that’s a total income of a whopping $30,000. Now, I don’t know how much the licensing fees Twilight Time must pay the studio are, but I imagine it’s a good chunk of that $30,000. Next you have to factor in that they still have manufacturing costs, Blu-ray cases to buy, artwork to design and print, distribution costs, and employee salaries to pay. All of that must be subtracted from the $30,000 income. Even if, somehow, they manage to keep all those expenses below $30,000, how much could that possibly leave them with? Is it realistic to run a business with margins that tight? What’s the upside to the company?

      What’s the solution here? Pay the studio a higher fee to license more copies they can sell? Remember that very few Twilight Time discs have actually sold the 3,000 units they’re currently licensed for. Most of these movies simply do not have huge sales potential. If Twilight Time presses more copies, they’re just going to sit on even larger piles of unsold stock than they already have for most titles.

      So, maybe they can negotiate larger print runs just for titles that prove to be fast sellers, like Fright Night or Christine? Sure, great. But what if they double the print run for Christine, and it turns out that the maximum buying audience for that title tops out at 3,005 copies? Now they’re stuck with 2,995 extra copies that they shouldn’t have bothered to license. Predicting how many copies a title will sell is very difficult. You never know how fickle the audience will be.

      But… won’t they sell more copies if they price them lower? Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it. A lot of Blu-rays you see in Walmart bargain bins barely manage to sell a few hundred copies nationwide, at much lower prices and with much higher overhead. The studios are essentially throwing money away to press those discs, which is why so many studios have given up on catalog sales and have started licensing those titles out to smaller labels.

      The reality of the matter is that this is a very tough business to be in right now. The people who run Twilight Time have presumably run the numbers, and after factoring in their expenses and expected sales, have decided that they need to price titles at $30 to $35 to comfortably make a profit and stay in business.

      As a consumer, am I happy about paying $35 for a catalog title? Generally not, but if it’s a movie I care about, I will spend the money for it. Back in the day, $35 was the average price of a Laserdisc release, with the nicer Criterion editions going upwards of $125. We’ve gotten really spoiled by low pricing on DVD and Blu-ray.

      If I don’t care about the movie enough to spend $35 for it, then I simply don’t need to own that movie. I’ll spend my money on something else. My need for instant gratification can be met elsewhere.

  16. Bill

    I have three titles from TT, Oliver, Zulu and Khartoum. All look fine. Blue Max is on preorder for Feb. 11.

    I too was initially taken aback by the 3,000 units limit because I figured that the discs would be gone on the release date. Hasn’t happened. I think what has happened is this. Most collectors are simply satisfied with the equivalent DVDs and have decided not to flip the same movie to BD. They still collect BDs but only latest/current releases. If I’m correct this does not bode well for a catalogue market for all but the most prestigious catalogue titles in the new 4K market that may/may not develop in the coming years.

  17. Heken

    I own a DVD of Drums Along the Mohawk, but it is not from Twilight. I got it thru Amazon back in 2005. The DVD is still available thru Amazon, as is the Blu-ray. So why would anyone want to buy it from Twilight?

    • Bill

      I think you’re a bit confused. Yes Amazon does list Drums but if you look closely it is part of their third party sellers market offerings. The actual discs come from a reseller when you place your order. I suspect that that that company gets their product from Screen Arts. BTW. Twilight time does not sell directly. The only seller is Screen Arts Entertainment as Josh noted. So far my experiences with SA have been all positive.

      • Josh Zyber

        To give some credence to the other side of this debate, the Screen Archives web site is poorly designed, and they do a very lousy job of announcing when titles will go on sale. Also, in a few of the cases where titles were fast-sellers, they fumbled the ball with regard to letting eBay scalpers scoop up the entire stock before other interested buyers had a chance to get them. Attempts to impose limits on how many copies a person can buy have had mixed results. Issues like that could use more work.

      • Heken

        When I bought Drums back in 2005, It was sold by Amazon LLC and was shipped by Amazon with several other DVDs. Amazon still says Ships from and sold by amazon.com.

  18. I own 4 of these titles and yes, they are light on the special features. Pretty much non-existant. But I don’t really care about special features anyway and the quality of the prints and transfers are very good on all of them. I hope they keep releasing more because they are worth it.

  19. Lord Bowler

    Ones I want are:

    The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
    Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger
    Enemy Mine
    Mysterious Island
    Major Dundee
    Journey to the Center of the Earth

  20. August Lehe

    I own Zulu, Oliver and Golden Voyage of Sinbad.
    Could not be happier unless I had Criterion editions….I still treasure my Criterion Zulu Laser Disc Special Edition…

  21. I just bought some great Blu Rays from ARROW video in the UK. They are region 2 so I had to get a $100 region free player, but it was well worth it. I think Twilight Time got their limited release model from ARROW. But the ARROW discs have a lot more content and huge booklets on the making of the film. And they are a lot cheaper than Twilight Time even getting them from the UK.

  22. Josh Zyber

    Interesting poll results so far. Ray Harryhausen and Brian De Palma are apparently pretty popular with our readers.

    Every title on the list has at least one vote, even real obscurities like Conrack or Rita, Sue and Bob Too. Do these movies really have fans among our readers, or is that just driven by a desire to collect Twilight Time releases? Honestly, I’d never heard of either film before.

  23. Lamar Kennedy

    I also bought Man in The Dark 3D from Twilight Time, could not be happier! I will buy every “Golden Age” 3D Movies from the 50’s they come out with! I don’t care what the price is.

  24. I have many of the Twilight Time releases, both Blu-ray and SD-DVD. I have no complaints. I’m happy with them all and I’m glad that Twilight Time is doing this good work.

  25. Chris S

    3000 copies is fine and all, but what do you think happens when you order a blu-ray (prior to the title selling out) and Screen Archives sends you the CD soundtrack instead? O_o

    • Bill

      That has never happened to me but I could see it happening. Their main business is music after all. Did they rectify their error?

  26. My Vote:
    X-By the time I hear about a given release, it’s been Sold Out for quite some time

    I would not consider them ripoff artists but their marketing sucks. I would then consider the ebayers ripoff artists for trying to take serious advantage of us.

    Zavvi’s exclusives are similarly priced but seem more available. I wonder if Twilight Time does not artificially deflate their numbers and they themselves try to ebay a certain percentage.

  27. I’ve bought four of the TT discs on Blu-ray. Not mentioned here is that they also have had regular DVD’s that were exclusive. Ones I purchased is Fate is the Hunter which sold out, and the other was the 1966 version of Stagecoach which was down to 300 copies just a couple of weeks ago.

    I would like to purchase more titles and probably will eventually. But with studios moving to a burn on demand model and charging premium prices, you have to spread around your funds the best that you can.

    As for Fox, they are very good at releasing and re-releasing the same old same old titles over and over again (I’m looking at you Sound of Music among others)but when it comes to some of their catalog titles, they pretty much stink.

    The Fox archive titles on DVD-R have for the most part been abysmal releases. Many of their CinemaScope films such as April Love and Goodbye Charlie were released in pan and scan.
    And this from the company that invented the CinemaScope process.

    On the one hand we have groups like the AFI touting film preservation, then on the other hand we have studios like Fox treating their own library like crap.

    To add insult to injury, one of the titles Fox supposedly released to TT was the aforementioned April Love, but the quality was so poor as to make it unusable and Fox, a billion dollar company, absolutely refuses it’s shortsightedness of scanning for your old 19 inch portable and doing rescans. For me, the real villain in this story will and shall be 20th Century Fox.