Oh dear, oh dear. If you read my previous two-part post, you will have seen that I got into trouble recently with Cult Labs Forums which is the site for Arrow Video and Shameless Films, here in the UK.
Well, it seems that Arrow really does have its undergarments in a knot, as now, news has been leaked via that famously secure Internet concept, Twitter, about a forthcoming release. Arrow Video are to release Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE (aka ZOMBI, aka ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS) later this year, and boy oh boy, are the Arrow Staff not happy about this news being leaked!
Checking in their Forum site, so many of the members are livid and enraged that Alan Jones, (prominent Dario Argento enthusiast and writer and co-ordinator of the UK horror film festival "Frightfest"), has let the cat out of the bag early, despite some kind of clause in his contract to allegedly keep schtum!
As I would have expected, there are members on the Forum demanding Alan be replaced; others calling for his head. It's all kicking-off over there, and to be honest, I find it highly amusing. Not because I want to piss on anyone from a great height, though that is quite fun in this instance, but the fact that Arrow are being so utterly protective of what they thought was their baby.
It's a goddamn film release.
It's a good release for sure, but that's all it is. The fact that the cat is now out of the bag, isn't really going to be that big of an issue. However, Arrow are up-in-arms about the news being leaked.
They are flapping the hands, claiming that they wanted to release the news, when they decided to release it - which was going to be sometime in the Autumn. They are claiming that fun has been reduced for fans, because they (allegedly) had some kind of spectacular promo campaign in the works, for the UK Blu-Ray release. Supposedly, Arrow are alleging that lots of hard-work has now gone to waste.
I'm sorry, but nothing is secret anymore.
In this day-and-age, with the Internet being the behemoth that it is, there is no such thing as "confidentiality" and "secrecy" any more. It takes just one person to hint at something, and then the frenzy of fans will instantly put two-and-two together, and discuss it, Tweet it, Facebook it across the globe within minutes! Bearing in mind that governments have been toppled via Internet "leaks", is it really fair to expect privacy over the trivial matter of a film's release?
I appreciate that in some cases, secrecy is necessary, but it's not as if Arrow releasing a Blu-Ray of a cult horror film from 1979, is really going to be much of a shock to people. Moreso, when that same film is already out on Blu-Ray from Blue Underground, in a spankingly classy, and extras-filled Region Free edition. (And to which, was probably cheaper for me to import from the US, than it will be to pre-order Arrow's Blu-Ray release, anyway.)
As I have come to expect, the die-hard Arrow fanboys have come out to play on the Cult Labs Forums, mummying Arrow, because Arrow's delicate sensibilities have been inflamed by this "leak". So too, has the inevitable discussion about what kind of form will the finished release take, e.g. single or double-disc; Limited Edition Arrow release; Arrow Steelbook, etc. After the debacle that was the DEMONS Arrow Steelbook, I don't think I'm going to be losing any sleep whilst this pettiness continues.
I don't want to be damning and critical of small, independent and/or niche film distributors, because if it wasn't for them, then my DVD and Blu-Ray collection would be infinitely smaller. But with that all said, the internal politics gets right on my nerves. Prior to the DEMONS Steelbook screw-up, and the recent THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY balls-up (in which the wrong disc was inserted into the set, before being shipped-out by the distributors to companies like HMV and Amazon), plus printing delays et al, Arrow posted a poll on their website, asking for customer feedback. The poll was simple: did fans want the special Arrow packaging (slipcase, four-panel artwork, comics, posters, etc) to continue?
The poll went online, and around 79-80% of the response was a resounding "yes"! So what did Arrow do, once the poll closed? They came back saying, thanks to everyone for replying, but they had decided to discontinue the special packaging, except for rare occasions. In other words, they just completely ignored the fans and customers desires, and totally went against their wishes.
Talk about selfish!
Small, independent companies live-and-die by their customer service. Give great service, follow what your customers comment upon, do what customers want, and your company will go far (see Anchor Bay, Kino Video, Eureka/Masters Of Cinema, Metro Tartan, Blue Underground, Code Red, etc, etc). Go against your customers, or ignore what they say, and you will die a quick and painful death. Your company will go under, and your customers will watch you sink into the ocean, never to be heard of again, and they absolutely will not give a second's thought to you.
Arrow could be a great company. They could be the UK equivalent of Anchor Bay or Blue Underground.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm sure some of my readers will be thinking that I need to stop being so harsh. After all, they did offer fans an option to swap the faulty THE BEYOND discs over, via their Forums. They also offered a disc-swap for anyone who has received the wrong disc in their recent THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981, Lucio Fulci) release. That is true for both incidents. However, what I want to know is this:
1) Why did Arrow allow pre-release screener copies and retail copies of THE BEYOND to go out, containing the famous pre-credits sequence in black-and-white, rather than the proper and intended sepia tone?
2) Why did it take fans to notify Arrow about the less-than-spectacular image quality, rather than Arrow actually making sure the film was correct before pre-release screener and retail copies got produced and sent out?
3) Why, when fans notified them about this, did Arrow seem to suggest that this was just a "minor error", and not - in fact - a massive problem with quality-control?
4) Why, even now, can people still buy copies of THE BEYOND and still get the wrong disc inside, and then have to hunt around on the Internet, to find out what to do to get a corrected copy?
When Hammer's recent release of DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966, Terence Fisher) contained an audio glitch, and some picture issues, they recalled everyone's discs from Day 2 of the film going on sale; stopped the release from continuing to be sold anywhere; rectified the problem, then re-released it and sent-out free replacements to anyone who wanted it. Customer's didn't have to return the original, faulty disc, but they did need to provide proof- of-purchase to get the new, corrected disc.
If Arrow, who claim to be so great with their customer service, can't do this, then why do they expect their customers to just keep accepting that "unforeseen errors" and "mistakes" keep on happening, with every release? If it's not excessive Digital Noise Reduction, it's incorrect aspect-ratio's. If not printing problems, it's faulty openings on films. If it's not one thing, it's something else. These aren't "errors", these are repeated, gigantic screw-ups from a company that should know better!
Even though I've said all that, I'm not suggesting that either Anchor Bay or Blue Underground don't have their faults, or haven't sometimes made mistakes. They have. But, for the most part, they've learnt from them. They take their customer feedback seriously.
Arrow, on the other hand, seem to invite feedback, then ignore it, or they just do whatever the hell they want, and then when customers complain, they say tough luck, or in the case of the Forums, they simply ban you, because they aren't, can't, or won't be mature enough to actually tackle you head-on. T'is far better to just get rid of you, so that they don't have to deal with answering some difficult and perfectly legitimate questions from their customers. It's the simple route. The easy choice. The immature option.
And thus, we come to another step in the steady, and inevitable, decline of Arrow as a company. They need to immediately start addressing these issues, start listening to their customers properly, and allow for customers to slate their releases, if said releases aren't up to scratch. Shutting down such discussions, just makes you appear like you only want to hear positive feedback, or arse-licking posts that swoon over every single thing you release. They need to take their heads from out of their backsides, and start dealing with things straight-up, rather than fobbing customers and fans off with excuses, as to why another error has crept into play!
Your fans are your customers. Your customers are your bread-and-butter. You need to pay attention to what they say, no matter how negative or unfriendly the comments may be, and address them head-on. Be upfront. Be honest. If something has gone wrong, tell people. If you don't know why something happened, just apologise for it, even if it isn't your fault. If you made an executive choice about something, explain to people why you did this. Nine times out of 10, the customers will accept this.
But whatever you do, don't bullshit us about something, and don't demand uncritical worshipping from your customers, when such worship is neither warranted nor deserved.