This has the potential to claim the largest class action title away from those Wal-Mart employees. According to Slashdot,
Apparently all of MGM’s ‘theatrical wide screen’ DVD releases for the last few years have been the pan-scanned versions with the top and bottoms cut off. I checked this against my copy of CQ, and it’s true. The list (PDF) of butchered movies includes almost every Woody Allen film, Silence of the Lambs, and Ghost World, just to name a few. If you own any of the eligible movies, you have until March 31 to either opt to exchange your copy for $7.10, or a new DVD from MGM, presumably in its proper aspect ratio.”
The full list of DVDs is here. It looks like it includes everything MGM has put out over the past several years.
Michael Demtschyna discusses the technical aspect of this case.
VHS and TV demand 1.33:1 images (although thankfully this is changing). The simplest way to convert a 1.85:1 or 1.66:1 movie to 1.33:1 is to simply open up the top and bottom mattes on the original film. No important information is lost (as it is with the pan and scan process), since the movie was entirely composed within the frame of the negative. The only problem is that unnecessary information is now present at the top and the bottom of the image. Information that the director and cinematographer did not want you to see theatrically. Information that could well destroy the composition of a given image. Information that sometimes inadvertently includes Mr Boom Microphone and other unwanted movie nasties.
So, yes, “widescreen” transfers of 1.85:1 movies are not wider than their full frame counterparts. They are, however, more artistically correct, truer to the director’s and cinematographer’s intent, and how these movies were shown theatrically. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe these transfers as “original theatrical aspect ratio” transfers rather than “widescreen” transfers.
So, back to the proposed class settlement. It is important to note that the quality of the DVDs under question is not at issue. The DVDs have all been correctly produced. They are not faulty. There will be no recall of the DVDs. There will be no remastering of the DVDs with a wider image – no wider image exists. They are not simply “pan and scan” DVDs which have been further cropped top and bottom. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE DVDs. The only problem is that some have taken issue with the packaging of these DVDs describing them as “widescreen” when, very much on a technicality, they are not.