Since then, I’ve been staying on the treadmill, watching those old movies (and in some cases TV movies), posting each time I get through one disc, and adding a new Offtopic Perspective each time I finish half a box (six DVDs, once in a while seven DVDs). For a while, it seemed as though the company–now named Mill Creek Entertainment–was running on empty, just distributing the 20-odd sets they’d assembled from public domain, TV movies, and other sources where they didn’t need to pay royalties.
A couple of weeks ago, Seth Finkelstein of Infothought sent me an odd email, assuring me it wasn’t spam and he wasn’t getting a commission. He reads C&I sometimes, and knew I watched these old flicks. He saw that BestBuy.com was having a two-day sale (sorry, it’s over): Two of the 50-movie packs for $25. I didn’t really need any more movies–I’m on disc nine of one set and disc seven of another, with two more packs (100 more movies) waiting after that–but, hey, 100 movies for $25 is a pretty good deal. So I checked it out–and found a couple of sets I wasn’t aware of, one of them released last month. I ordered two of them (that’s right, I now have more than 200 movies waiting to be watched–I intend to keep using that treadmill for years to come), and decided it was time to take another look at Mill Creek Entertainment.
Here’s what I found: The company’s active–and they’ve come up with some even bigger packs. As I write this, there appear to be thirty different 50-movie megapacks, up from 21 in late November 2006. 50-packs I don’t remember seeing before include Box Office Gold, Combat Classics, Drive-in Movie Classics, Family Fun, Frontier Justice, and Nightmare Worlds.
There are also eight hundred-movie packs–most of them straight combinations of 50-packs with no duplications (e.g., Action Classics combines the Action and Suspense 50-packs), all of them (I believe) composed of movies that are also in 50-packs. There were already some smaller subsets of 50-packs and that continues–I see 24 20-movie packs and nine 10-movie packs. (I could see some people going for the 20-pack of John Wayne flicks, most of them early and short, and some of the thematic packs are interesting.)
For libraries where the “informal circulating collection” model suggested in the earlier post might make sense, Mill Creek now has something else to offer:
That’s right. Four packs–Family Collection, Horror Collection, Mystery Collection and (predictably, given the 50-packs) Western Collection. The “foil collectors boxes” still have individual cardboard sleeves for each disc. So you’d have 240 informally-circulatable items, each with four or more old movies, for a total outlay of no more than $400 and probably significantly less.
Make that definitely significantly less, if you can buy from Amazon: I see all four 250-movie packs available for $50 each. That’s a thousand old movies for $200–less than a buck per circulating DVD.
I’m not shilling for Mill Creek. There are a couple of the 50-movie packs I’d be reluctant to buy for myself or a library (a couple recent packs are heavy on R-rated schlock), and lots of these movies are from damaged prints, nearly all VHS-quality or worse. When they say “Carefully digitally remastered,” they mean the movies were converted from analog to digital form: Otherwise, they couldn’t put them on DVDs. It does not mean restored or anything of the sort: Not at these prices!
That said, Mill Creek Entertainment is doing a fine job of using the public domain for all it’s worth, and I think that’s a good thing. Sure, you can download a lot of these movies–but why bother?
I just checked Amazon a little further. They appear to have all thirty 50-movie packs at $13 to $18 each) and all eight–whoops, all nine 100-packs (there’s one that isn’t even on Mill Creek’s site yet, and it won’t actually be out until May 2008)–at $27 to $45 each.
Mill Creek has some other stuff–collections of cartoons (300 in one box), TV boxed sets and TV-movie mixes, even a few indie movies and fitness sets. But mostly, Mill Creek is boxes of public domain movies at fair prices. The prints may be (and usually are) mediocre, and lots of the pictures are B or less–but there are also some classic gems. Within the last two weeks, I’ve watched McClintock! and the original, black-and-white, Irene Dunne/Charles Boyer Love Affair. Good stuff.
Clarification: While it’s clear that most Mill Creek releases are from the public domain, most is not all, and MCE never claims that its releases are in the public domain. Some material is from TV shows, TV movies, and movies where rights could be licensed for presumably either nothing or very small sums, given the prices of the sets.