The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey
Paid $26.49 at Best Buy (price includes tax)
Today: Saturday – April 12, 2014 @ 4PM
This is my first steelbook. I’ve been wanting one for well over a month now. I don’t know how it happened but I just got obsessed with these things. I remember walking through Best Buy a couple years ago and seeing steelbooks for the first time. They were the comic book cover styled versions of super hero movies for $15 or so. I thought they were really cool, but I didn’t have an HDTV or a Blu-ray player at the time.
A little while later I saw more steelbook movies, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy (non extended editions) and Gladitor. I didn’t jump on the LOTRs versions because they were not extended and I already owned the theatrical cuts on DVD along with the extended versions. At the time my heart was set on the box set blu-ray of the extended edition.
So that was then. Best Buy had a ton of steelbooks. I told myself back then I would come back and buy some in the future.
At some point about a month or so ago I was browsing online for some movie and found a steelbook version in another country. I don’t even remember what movie, it may have been The Fellowship of the Ring extended edition in steelbook. It got me on the steelbook kick. So shortly after I returned to Best Buy to check out their steelbook collection again. It had been over a year or two by now since I saw their collection. I was shocked to find not a single steelbook in stock and the couple emplyees I asked had never even heard of them.
“But you used to have a ton of them” I said. Followed by blank stares on their faces.
I then went back online and started researching. It turns out that back when I saw my first steelbooks at Best Buy, I thought they were a new thing and that all the stores would be carrying them. That the entire industry was moving over to this cool new type of packaging. But I was wrong. Steelbooks had been around for a few years already. mostly in other countries. On top of that, steelbooks were often exclusives to certain stores like Best Buy, Target, Walmart, etc. Which means that not every store was going to have the same movie in a steelbok version. For example Walmart had an exclusive Oblivion steelbook when that movie first came out. The other stories didn’t. So if you wanted it, you had to buy it at Walmart. Wish I would have back then.
As of late, steelbooks seem to be going out of style just as I am starting to get into them. Or at least they are becoming harder to find in stores. Most people have still never even heard of them. Most stores aren’t carrying them anymore here in the states. (Update March 2019 – It must have been a dry season for steelbooks when I first wrote this, because starting around the Holidays of 2014 I started to see a lot of them at Best But and that continues to this day.)
The other day I was at a Walmart (someplace I really don’t like to support) and they had one steelbook for Anchorman 2. I went to two Target stores today and neither had any steelbooks. Surprisingly, the Best Buy that didn’t have any a month back, now had gotten some in stock. *happy dance* Mostly this one, The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey, but also one copy of Catching Fire and a handful of copies of The Wizard of Oz in 3D. The latter wasn’t technically a steelbook, the design (hinge) was slightly different(all metal). But close enough and the same thickness. I really should have picked up a copy. It was on sale for $20. I may return tomorrow for it.
So three movies in steelbook, but a far cry from the shelves of them Best Buy used to have.
Obviously this scarcity has only fueled my desire and drive to buy them. But that’s not the reason I want them. The reason I want them is fairly simple. I still like physical media. It’s dependable. If you lose your internet connection for whatever reason, discs still work and the quality of the picture doesn’t change depending on your internet bandwidth like it does with Netflix. It’s easy for anyone in the house to watch without digging through folders on your computer. It already comes on its own storage media and doesn’t require your hard drive space. It can be a conversation starter for people who drop by. It’s also easier to gift a disc to someone than a digital file they have to figure out how to play.
Blu-ray is the highest quality consumer movie format available. When it comes to owning a movie, you can’t beat blu-ray at the moment in terms of picture and sound quality or special features. In my mind, if you’re going to spend the money to own a movie on a physical format like blu-ray, then buy something that is well done. Something that is packaged nicely and comes with a ton of special features. Like owning a piece of art, not just a copy of movie.
As someone who loves movies, a steelbook is a piece of art. The screen printed aluminum shell and the inner clear plastic case with the artwork behind it make for a beautiful presentation. Far better than just a cheap thin plastic recycled and totally generic blue case. If you’re going to have a movie sitting on a shelf, make it a touchable experience and make it look good. Something you want to pick up and hold in your hands. Something that feel like quality. That’s why I’m so geeked about steelbooks. Although a good cardboard collectors case can get me just as geeked.
A lot of the steelbook cases are minimal in design. Favoring large artwork and less logos, copyrights and disclaimers plastered all over. This makes them even more “art like” and less like just buying a movie to watch because it’s the only way to watch it. Today with digital downloads and streaming services like Netflix, people aren’t buying disc media as much anymore. So when you do, buy something nice. That’s my opinion at least.
Sadly, as I sad above, it seems that I am getting into steelbooks as steelbooks and disc media in general are becoming more rare. This is making the hunt for certain steelbook versions of movies difficult enough online and next to impossible in actual brick and mortar stores. Some of these steelbook versions of movies are going from $50 to $100+ dollars because there were only ever available overseas and hard to find at that. Luckily most blu-rays are region free, so if you buy overseas, you can play them in your player here. I’ll be going down that road soon enough.
As for now, this is my first steelbook and I’m happy to have it. The movie itself was just alright. I’ve seen it three times. First in the theater and again on 2D blu-ray at home. One of those times with my son the day before we all went to the theater to see the second movie in The Hobbit trilogy. I’ve never seen the extended version and it’s nice to have a 3D version for home. This is my second 3D blu-ray. The first is Prometheus which I bought when I got my 3D TV a year and a half ago. I mostly just rent 3D blu-ray movies because they are so expensive to buy. I was happy that this one was $25 on sale today. That’s a good price for a 3D blu-ray as is, let alone one in a steelbook case. I just wish blu-ray supported the 48fps high frame rate (HFR) the movie was shot in. It would be nice to own it that way in 3D and in steelbook. But we can’t have everything can we? Maybe when 4K blu-ray comes out it will support 48fps in 4K for those of us like myself who actually do appreciate the high frame rate 3D. (Update March 2019 – HaHaHa! Not only does UHD Blu-ray Not support 48fps, it also doesn’t support 3D… sigh. Such a disappointment.)
I actually preferred the second movie in this trilogy which they also had in stock at Best Buy today. In fact I think it just came out and that’s why they had this one on sale and in a steelbook version. A lot of times they rerelease the first movie in a special edition when the sequel comes out, just to try and make more sales. But they don’t seem to have a steelbook version of the second movie, At least not at Best Buy. So I’ll have to find that elsewhere or hope they release one when they release the third movie. Maybe an overseas vendor has it now. But this was my first steelbook partly because I could buy it in person. I like buying physical media physically. lol I’ll resort to online only when I have to. (Update March 2019 – Sadly Best Buy never offered a 3D Extended Steelbook version of the second or third Hobbit movies, neither did anyone else. Which leaves me with just this movie in this format rather than a matching trilogy. Just another disappointment.)
When buying this I thought it also came with the 2D version of the movie, but apparently it does not. Unless you count the ultraviolet version you can download with the included code. Which I really don’t, as it is not a physical disc. (Update March 2019 – At the time I wrote this it hadn’t dawned on me that you can watch the 3D version in 2D.)
Here is hoping this is just the first of a big collection of blu-ray and blu-ray 4K (when and if that format comes out) steelbooks I’ll eventually own.
In fact I don’t plan to buy another plastic case movie again if I can help it. Even if it is a movie I love and only $5. I’ll pay the extra money for the steelbook.
Update March 17, 2019 – Well that was short sighted. I’ve bought plenty of plastic case blu-rays since then, but also a couple handfuls of steelbooks and 3D blu-rays and about five UHD blu-rays at this point. I still like a good quality steelbook release, but I’ve been burned by a lot of cheapo steelbook releases that have no interior artwork and just a single disc with the movie and no special features on it. Most of the cheaper Best Buy steelbook releases are like that. To this day, this Hobbit release is still my best quality steelbook purchase due to the multiple discs and interior artwork. Kind of a shame actually. After getting this release I had thought that all steelbook releases would be a premium experience, but sadly most I’ve encountered are the reverse. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that distributors would put in the money and effort to do a steelbook version (often with custom artwork) only to cheap out on no interior artwork or special features on the disc. I would think that most people buying a steelbook would want the ultimate version of that movie, multiple discs even, with grade A packing both outside and inside. I know I do. That just doesn’t seem to be the common trend I’ve found. As a result I’ve lost a lot of my lust for buying steelbook releases and haven’t bought one in a while. The last one I bought was The Fifth Element UHD Blu-ray steelbook from Best Buy. It is basically the same case as their regular blu-ray steelbook release, which I also own. No interior artwork. But at least it is two discs and an Ultraviolet code.