First, for those of you not subscribed to C&I Updates: Cites & Insights 5:1, January 2005, is now available for downloading. Because of the exigencies of this tween-holiday week, I won't submit a "story" until tomorrow, and list postings won't go out until January 3--but it's there. Strong on scholarly access, some stuff on copyright, a whole bunch of self-indulgent retrospective nonsense--and a note about the new sponsorship, from YBP Library Services.
Movies, movies, movies? I've written elsewhere (in C&I) about the Family Classics 50 Movie Megapack I acquired to keep me going on my treadmill, once the 40 free movies I'd gotten from a now-dead DVD magazine were done.
Treeline Films, maker of that Megapack, has apparently developed a production system that allows them to produce boxes with 12 double-sided, double-layer DVDs, each in a cardboard sleeve containing summaries of the four or five movies on the DVD, at a price that means they can sell for $24.95 to $34.99 and be profitable for Treeline and the Internet stores that sell them. (They might turn up in retail stores as well; I got the first one for $19.95 as a RiteAid holiday special, but have never seen any since in local stores.)
The movies are all either public domain or available with no (or nominal) license fees. There are no extras. You get four scenes per movie, that may or may not be logically arranged; basically, movies are split into quarters by time.
Print quality ranges from barely watchable to excellent. On some older movies, frames are missing and some of the soundtrack is garbled, but I have yet to see a movie that was truly unwatchable because of print damage. I just finished watching Danny Kaye's The Inspector General, a gem of a film that was also a nearly-perfect print.
I mention these sets here because Treeline continues to bring them out, and I think they're a remarkable bargain for people interested in older cinema--and maybe for libraries. I see nothing preventing a library from treating each cardboard sleeve/DVD as a separate circulating item. The movies are in at least as good shape as the old public domain $5-$10 videocassettes from oddball companies--and you're getting 50 movies for $25 to $35.
I see 13 boxes so far, including genre boxes for Horror, Mystery, SciFi, War, Comedy, Western, Family, Action, as well as "Hollywood Legends" (all feature films, all with major stars) and "All Stars," a collection of star-heavy TV movies. The final three packs include one with 150 serial episodes (a dozen old serials), one with 100 cartoons, and one with 100 TV episodes.
I would expect more to come. I picked up the SciFi (yes, some of the movies aren't really SciFi, and most of the movies are B to D films), All Stars (a great bunch of TV movies!), and Hollywood Legends (a remarkable set of films for the price) boxes. The mystery (heavy on Sherlock Holmes and others) and some others also look interesting.
You can find them at Overstock for $24.95 plus $1.50 shipping, at Amazon for $34.95, and at DVD MegaPacks and BN.com for $28 to $30. I've found Overstock reliable so far; that's where I've purchased all but the first.
Obviously, I can't vouch for the video quality of those I haven't seen. Some that I have--an early "Scarlet Letter," for example--were badly damaged. Some others have been nearly perfect.
My own calculus: If I see seven movies that I'd be willing to buy as cheapo singles (say for $5), then I'm automatically ahead of the game. I've already seen seven that qualify in the "Family Classics" box, and I'm only on the fifth of twelve DVDs. Your mileage may vary, as always.
By the way, since most or all of these are in the public domain, they should also be usable for public screening.