Calculate your chances...negative...negative...negative!
Monday, March 12, 2007
The Incredibly Shrinking MST3K
It should come as no shock to anyone reading this blog that I love MST3K (or Mystery Science Theater 3000, to be exact.) However, the show has been off the air for years. The only way to watch it anymore is either through the beauty of tape trading/file sharing or the DVDs and videos Rhino has released.
Despite feeling they are a bit pricey and sometimes a little carelessly assembled, I do genuinely appreciate the Rhino releases. Recently, I've become a little concerned about the future of MST3K at retail. I'm not going to claim it's all over for the cowtown puppet show, but I do have to wonder if we're seeing the beginning of the end.
Part of the problem is licensing. See, MST3K has got to be the most difficult TV show in terms of rights and licensing anyone ever could have created. Since each episode encompassed an entire movie, the broadcast rights for that movie would have to be secured and renewed to keep that episode on the air. If Rhino wanted to release that episode, additional rights needed to be secured.
Rhino has been an excellent home for MST3K if for no other reason than they already have the rights to a lot of movies featured on the show. The problem is, over time those rights expire and if the owners of the film chose not to renew, that episode would go out of print.
This first happened in the VHS days with Amazing Colossal Man being the first episode orphaned. No real surprise, considering that movie and it's sequel War of the Colossal Beast (also featured in MST3K) have been embroiled in rights tangles for years. Next to go was another single episode release, The Beginning of the End, which went out of print when the rights to the movie went over to Image early last year.
Though there was a considerable gap of time between those first two casualties, the deletions have been fast and furious since. In the last year, Rhino lost the rights to all four films on the Vol. 1 set and Sidehackers for Vol. 3 (orphaning three other discs in the process.) Vol. 10 was pulled almost as fast as it was released (though we still don't know why, the assumption being Godzilla vs. Megalon wasn't licensed properly to begin with) and a few weeks ago fans discovered Vol. 9 is MIA as well.
If these were all older releases, it wouldn't be so shocking, but the fact of the matter is, the two most recently released MST3K sets are out of print, one within weeks of hitting the shelves. I've also noticed the release date for Vol. 11 keeps getting pushed further and further and still no titles leaked. One has to wonder what the heck is going on at Rhino.
The other problem is stores just aren't stocking these things any more. I recently spoke to someone at Best Buy and he told me he didn't think they were carrying any MST3K discs anymore. Despite all the shelf space they're giving to TV on DVD, apparently they can't spare any room for MST3K. It's a similar situation at the other box boxes out here. Cult releases, like MST3K, are getting pushed out for more room for triple dips of Hollywood's latest CGI-fest.
With rights vanishing along with self space, I have to wonder what the future holds for MST3K on DVD. Even at best, these can't be huge sellers anyway. With dwindling retail placement and nightmarish licensing, releasing these things can't be much more than a labor of love. I just have to wonder how much longer Rhino is going to feel that love.
Update 3/19: Looks like I Accuse My Parents may have slipped over to the land beyond. Good luck trying to score a copy, all the sellers on half.com and Amazon appear to be "warehouse" sellers who list tons of crap they don't actually have on hand. If this is truly OOP, I don't exactly know why...