Warner Bros. has put out a press release announcing that beginning December 29 they will stop shipping all of their Harry Potter titles, including DVD, Blu-Ray, and the upcoming years 1-7 box set (though digital copies will still be available for purchase).
This might evoke a “…wait, what?” reaction, but if this practice is ringing a bell, you’re probably thinking of the Disney Vault. As the endless ads for The Lion King recently might have reminded you, Disney puts their home video releases on moratorium, with films going back into the “vault” until they are released again a few years later. Disney’s purported reasoning is that this helps keep the films fresh for each generation of children, but it has the side effect of artificial scarcity creating demand – just think of how many copies of The Lion King are going to be in Christmas stockings. (Though this has also made Disney films a huge target for counterfeiters.)
So Warner Bros. doing the same thing probably has a similar motivation. Perhaps even specifically to drive up quick demand for the upcoming Harry Potter Complete Collection that contains all 8 films, released 11/11/11. Quick, get it for the holidays or it will be gone forever! Though this could also have a motivation that would make any Slytherin proud – selling more copies of a sub-par box set to the Harry Potter fans who will immediately go out and purchase a better box set again when released. Because Amazon reviews for the Complete Collection (available for pre-order) point out that there are pretty much no bells and whistles. And it certainly stands to reason that Warner Bros. will get around to releasing something special and awesome – this one just definitely isn’t it.
Some people are pointing out that this move will just encourage piracy. As for me, having copies of the previous films, I’ll probably just buy 8 when it comes out in November and then sit tight until they release some worthwhile box set someday. I just hope it’s not like Star Wars where they’re releasing new special editions for decades to come.