It doesn't pay to be a film fan these days -- not when DVD distributors keep releasing new versions of the same movie, forcing cinephiles to pay again and again for much the same material.
You can buy multiple versions of "The Wizard of Oz," "Some Like It Hot," the "Star Wars" films and all three "The Lord of the Rings" movies. Each version is a little different because of additional scenes, added commentary or new extras. George Lucas is even going so far as to make available the original versions of his first three "Star Wars" films, the versions people saw in theaters before he started tinkering with them years later.
Anyone who really loves a particular film is going to want to own every nook and cranny of it, which means that, in some cases, you'll have to buy the same title three or four times. At $10 to $50 each, that represents some serious bucks.
Case in point: When Terry Zwigoff's "Bad Santa" was released on DVD, it came in two versions, one R-rated, one (dubbed "Badder Santa") unrated. Now comes word that a new "director's cut" will be released in the fall. Besides the issue of what this one will be called ("Really Bad Santa"? "Even Badder Santa"? "Better Badder Santa"?), there are the questions of how many versions of a film really have to be released and how many times faithful film fans will be asked to dig deep into their wallets.
At the very least, studios could release all the versions of a film at once, so consumers can pick and choose. That may not make the most sense from a strictly capitalist point of view, but it certainly seems fairer to fans, who shouldn't be penalized financially for their devotion to a movie.
Chris Kaltenbach is a film critic at the Baltimore Sun, a Tribune company.