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Studios That Care About DVDizzy.com Readers
... and Those That Do Not: Part II - 2014 Update

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The Biggest Snubs of 2013

In the past ten months, since I last gave you a peek at the behind-the-scenes aspects of running DVDizzy.com, much has changed and most of it for the good. Studios that had been neglecting this site have generally come around, while one that had been schizophrenically stringing us along and underserving has become the first to officially have their ties severed.
And you, the readers, have continued visiting this site on a regular basis, even though we're repeatedly reminded that home video sales are falling fast. That makes this update less juicy and less fueled by frustration than the last incarnation. You may even question the need for it, until you reach certain cathartic passages. Nonetheless, I hope you'll enjoy this revised breakdown of the studios and PR agencies that care about you and the few that regrettably do not. Keep reading for a review of the best discs and biggest snubs of the year that just ended.

The studios that care about you:

1) Paramount (and Comedy Central/MTV) - Still #1 by a country mile, Paramount and the agency that handles most of their releases (M80) get Internet journalism as well as anyone. They're quick and reliable at sending product (often with little festive and colorful touches, some, like this World War Z First Aid Kid, quite inspired), always reply to requests and coverage, and never disappoint. The only drawback is that the studio's disc output has slowed to a crawl, with theatrical releases scaled back largely to a handful of tentpoles and the majority of its catalog getting licensed to Warner. If these fine folks handled every release, you and I both would be the better for it. Good news: they've got a strong end-of-year slate that will be reaching video in the coming months. (Note: Paramount/CBS titles are the domain of one of the worst PR agencies I've dealt with, but I won't hold that against Paramount proper.)

2) Disney - I go back with Disney's main agency (Click) three years further than any other and though there's been a few bumps in the road, they're generally one of the best and most passionate groups to work with. It sometimes takes a little more effort to secure coverage than it should and I did miss out reviewing a title likely of significant interest to you (see the subsequent snub list), but I've long been very pleased with the agency and am always glad to discover when they're handling an appealing release from another studio. They've even got Marvel to come around a little bit, though there's still room for improvement there.

3) Sony/FilmDistrict - For a long time, Sony has relied on a variety of agencies to handle their releases. Some are better than others, but all of them come through almost all of the time. Titles are generally sent well in advance of street date and the discs themselves tend to be expertly authored and a joy to review. The only drawback has been that occasionally a Blu-ray request yields a DVD, which are generally lacking these days. Sad news: FilmDistrict is being absorbed by Focus Features, moving their future titles to Universal.

4) Anchor Bay/Weinstein - In 2013, Anchor Bay switched from one main agency to the Sony-like model of a bunch of different agencies for different titles, seemingly linked to theatrical campaigns. It was a little difficult to make sense of it all and it resulted in us missing one of the year's biggest releases, but it all got sorted out and all of the agencies are on the ball, their once-regular, still-occasional agency (SPPR) being the best of all. One frustrating thing is that most of their catalog Blu-rays do not appear to be available for review, which is a shame because they'd definitely make for fun articles.

5) Acorn Media - This company was absorbed along with others into RLJ Entertainment, but, like Criterion, they retain their own distinct personality. They deal almost exclusively in British and Australian television, so it isn't always easy to find a review subject with both reader appeal and a reasonable workload. When such a title is found, though, I'm happy to review it and happy to deal with their superb press liaisons.

6) Mill Creek - I'm always excited to see what this little studio has in the pipeline. Their discs are either mostly or entirely vanilla (upside: quick turnaround!), but the Blu-rays at least usually have satisfactory picture and sound and are making interesting catalog titles available that otherwise wouldn't be.
Bonus points for a quick and sharp PR contact.

7) Criterion - Anyone who knows anything about home video knows that Criterion is king. Their catalog is the strongest around and their releases are unrivaled in quality. I wish I could rank them at the top, but they regrettably contributed some of the year's more disappointing snubs. I dream of a day when they send me everything they put out, because the vast majority of it is terrific cinema given loving treatment. Their discs may take more time to review, but it's time well-spent.

8) Flicker Alley - They're a grade-A studio that cares deeply about their product and those covering it. The only problem is they hardly release anything. I do hope they remain in business, because their releases, though pricey, imperfect, and niche, have been full of passion and historical importance.

9) Millennium - This is a relatively young studio you might not have yet encountered. While the discs are generally fine if unremarkable (some aspect ratios are questionable), the movies are usually good, or if not, they're bad in an interesting way (e.g. they feature Nicolas Cage, John Cusack or John Travolta). Their regular agency (Falco Ink) is a delight and gladly they seem to be handling more from this and other studios.

10) Twilight Time - We finally got to cover one of their releases in the fall and expect to again in the near-future, which is good news because their catalog is quickly growing and their care for the product is easy to admire.

11) Film Movement - Their monthly releases represent some of the more obscure titles reviewed on this site, but they clearly care about their presentation of these varied, independent world alternatives to more mainstream cinema.

12) Echo Bridge - They have something of a blemished reputation among DVD collectors for prioritizing low price and high volume over high quality, but some of the Blu-rays I've reviewed have been quite all right. Unfortunately, for some reason, they haven't made many titles available for review lately or released all that much.

13) Cinedigm - Our interaction with them started off terrific, but then they seemed to switch to a variety of agencies, requiring more efforts and less certainty in reviewing. Their output includes esteemed documentaries (Docurama), animation (GKIDS), and indie films (Tribeca), so hopefully they get things sorted out.

14) HBO - Their titles kindly come far in advance of street date and are generally of a very high caliber. The one shortcoming is that they only fill about 60% of requests and you never know which ones until they show up or you figure out that they won't. Still, considering the agency that handles them (who you'll hear more about at #20), it's a pleasant surprise I can rank them this high.

15) Image Entertainment - The central component of RLJ Entertainment, this small-ish studio generally welcomes our coverage, but they divide their voluminous content among who knows how many agencies, so we regrettably never get the chance to cover a lot of the more interesting stuff.

Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't (split personality studios):

16) Warner - If we were only talking about new theatrical releases, Warner would shoot right up near the top of this list. The individuals who handle those are a pleasure to deal with and great about getting you information and materials in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, Warner has by far the biggest catalog around and are very active about bringing publicity to their releases. That means they've been snubbing us more than any other studio and in a really disappointing and contradictory way. For example, we reviewed just one catalog title over a stretch of 48 months, through no choosing of ours. And after that picked up for a few weeks, it ended just as quickly with just as little explanation as before. While we've gotten to cover the occasional Cartoon Network/Adult Swim title, Warner Archive hasn't extended an offer in a long while.
It is truly staggering to see a studio, and the biggest of all in home video, prefer a shallow blurb on a low-trafficked site than a meaningful analysis on one that reaches a large audience. Clearly, Warner has the easiest path to winning a Most Improved award.

17) Magnolia - I've covered very few of their discs, as there was no connection between us for a while. Two recent experiences were fine, but the discs came well after street date, which is never fun. Now they have returned to one of the lesser agencies out there, which has already resulted in a snubbing and clouds the prospect of future title coverage.

18) Fox (and MGM) - They've come around some since hitting rock-bottom last winter and inspiring the original article, but they're still not always making great choices about what sites to send titles. They've at least been candid about the process and a little better about including us, but their contributions to the snubs list are far too numerous and significant to ignore, especially when you see some of the sites reviewing those same titles.

19) Universal (and Focus) - This comes strictly down to agencies, of which they rely on an assortment. One of them (MPRM) is one of our most frequently and reliably dealt with. Unfortunately, when they use someone other than them, we don't hear about the releases or get to review them. Bummer. Oh, and their slashed UPCs and cover-tearing stickers on review copies are quite lame and unusual.

20) Lionsgate/Summit/A24 - This group too comes down to agencies. When it's a good one, it's usually smooth sailing and they've gladly handled some of 2013's best and biggest Summit titles (Warm Bodies, Now You See Me). Alas, most of the time Lionsgate relies on Bender/Helper Impact (B/HI), an agency of frustrating, historic ineptitude that seems ill-equipped and unqualified to take on all the titles they do. Once in a while, they'll come through, but more often than not, they don't. The inconsistency leaves one scratching their head instead of reading about Mud.

21) Gaiam Vivendi - They're dangerously close to dropping to the next level, but only because they too rely on B/HI, which from experience does not seem very wise. They were collaborating with MPRM for a while, but that seems to have stopped. Plus, they slash UPCs. And, I hate to say it, but their catalog is weak.

Do not care about you at all:

These studios all have the same unfortunate story. I've contacted them multiple times, some of them at the request of readers, and have never once heard back from any of them. That's strange, since you'll find their releases covered at hobby sites with much less traffic and some with hardly any at all. Truthfully, most of these labels have little of interest to me and there are only so many discs I can find the time to cover...

22) Kino Lorber

23) Cohen Media Group

24) MPI Home Video

25) Olive Films

26) Entertainment One

And in last place comes the winner of a brand new, one-of-a-kind honor...

The Blacklist Award

Shout! Factory

Here's a small company that seems to care about making their customers happy. But not you and not me. They'd rather reach a small fraction of this site's readership at sites that do short, half-assed reviews than send us anything. I blame myself for thinking that a PR team's incompetence would not be able to overshadow the value of good, hard work. My experiences with Shout! prove that isn't always the case. While I devoted countless hours to reviewing some of the unsolicited releases they sent me, they proceeded to ignore my every request to cover releases that readers and I might actually care about. "They're often limited and not always available," they'd tell me in the rare instances they'd answer me at all. Not too limited to send a copy over to a site that Quantcast reveals gets 40-60 unique visitors a day. That's no exaggeration; we're being refused every disc that is then being sent to a site that we are getting documented 100 times as much traffic as. No amount of logic or jaw-dropping traffic statistics was able to convince Shout! to care about you or me in the slightest.

They pulled me from their mailing list without warning, notice, or explanation over the summer, sometime after I reviewed two rare releases of actual interest and they sent another DVD to the address I had told them I was moving out of over a month earlier. What they didn't know is that they themselves have become the first and only studio blacklisted by DVDizzy.com. So long as publicists Tom Chen, Sarah De Bruin, and Lauren Gaffney-Blum are working there, you could not pay me to review a Shout! Factory disc here, let alone to buy or watch one. To that group, I've also got to add Shout! disc producer, spokesman, and Power Rangers fan wrangler Brian Ward, an individual who especially should have seen the value of this site's comprehensive reviews, but, when made aware of the situation by a reader/Twitter follower, instead decided to smugly trash the site in a confrontational tweet. Just what the Internet needs: another tough guy.

I ignored that tweet just like their PR reps ignored my nearly every e-mail of consequence. Such individuals are unworthy of anyone's time. This rant is purely for you readers, who actually care about DVDs and Blu-rays and about the endless efforts I pour into writing about them for you. I strongly encourage you to join me in giving Shout! the same ugly indifference they felt you and I were worthy of.

Twenty-five most flabbergasting review snubs/agency fails of 2013:

You wanted these reviewed, we tried to review them, and yet... it didn't happen.

25. The Internship (Fox) - A very bad comedy, but our theatrical review should have laid the foundation for the Blu-ray combo one.

24. The Heat (Fox) - The biggest movie of 2013 we didn't get to see or cover.

23. Trance (Fox) - Danny Boyle's five previous films ranged from very good to outstanding, so it was disappointing not to cover this Blu-ray.

22. Prince Avalanche (Magnolia) - You know that strongly-reviewed indie movie that only sold about 25,000 tickets? Let's not try to get the word out about that!

21. Les MisÚrables (Universal) - It was my least favorite of 2012's Best Picture nominees and a movie you've probably either formed an opinion about or chosen to ignore. Still, it's a shame anytime a major film is released without us weighing in on it.

20. Shrek: The Musical (Fox/DreamWorks) - Like much of the world, I'm quite over Shrek, but this was one spin-off I would have liked to see and critique.

19. The Wolverine (Fox) - Another blockbuster blind spot of 2013 from the studio that didn't send The Heat!

18. Turbo (Fox/DreamWorks) - The first new film from DreamWorks Animation that we didn't get to review in three years.

17-16. Boy Meets World: The Complete Collection & Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection(Lionsgate) - These would have been a ton of work, but having seen every episode of each, many of them multiple times, would have eased the process.
Review product is genuinely limited for these big sets, but I can guarantee you that no other critic would have seen and revealed the tremendous value in either of these '90 kids landmarks.

15. Side Effects (Universal) - Whether or not this is Steven Soderbergh's final theatrical release (and, like many, I doubt it is), it's astonishing to have an agency promise product and then just not deliver. No bending, helping or impact going on here.

14-13. The Blob & To Be or Not to Be (Criterion) - I'm always bummed not to get to cover a Criterion release I want, even if The Blob isn't all that good and I'm not sure I'd like To Be.

12. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (Summit/Lionsgate) - I tried a few times and a few ways to land this Blu-ray, which instead ended up being one of our few blind spots among huge blockbuster movies. Oh well, you don't need me to know the series went sharply downhill after Eclipse, the only installment I reviewed.

11. Elysium (DVD instead of Blu-ray combo - Sony) - The kind of movie that demands high definition and lots of bonus features, neither of which it got in the basic DVD sent.

10. Zero Dark Thirty (DVD instead of Blu-ray combo - Sony) - It was one of my top films of 2012, so getting just the DVD was my own personal hurt locker, though I was still glad to review it over nothing.

9. This Is 40 (Universal) - This is Universal not getting a thoughtful, favorable review for this divisive Judd Apatow dramedy.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Summit/Lionsgate) - One of my favorite 2012 movies should have become one of my favorite 2013 Blu-rays.

7. The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure (Lionsgate) - This is one I was so excited to review that I started writing about it in advance. Alas, without the disc, I have a solid four opening paragraphs with nowhere to go. And another Oogust has passed and I still haven't seen this!

6. Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Blu-ray + DVD (Disney) - Truth be told, this is one of my least favorite Disney animated films, but it would have been a good excuse to give it another chance. And you readers seem to kind of like when I write about animation, so this one stung.

5. Django Unchained (Anchor Bay/Weinstein) - I blame myself for not figuring out who was handling this until it was too late, but Anchor Bay or Weinstein could have been savvy enough to tip me off it wasn't the usual suspects.

4. Big: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + DVD (Fox) - An all-time favorite whose 2007 Extended Edition DVD we raved about is one of the more notable of dozens of titles Fox stiffed us on.

3. The Sandlot: 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + DVD (Fox) - You're killing me, Fox! I've got to confess, not getting this and then seeing it reviewed on less-trafficked sites was heartbreaking.

2. Mud (Lionsgate) - It was my second favorite film of 2013, but until yesterday, you couldn't know that by reading this site.

1. Life of Pi (Fox) - When I saw this at an early advance screening, I never considered it would be my last viewing for a while. My cat needs to see this.

Continue: The Best Blu-rays and DVDs of 2013 >>

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Posted January 1, 2014.

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