On Movies, or: Even Superman & the Crew of the Starship Enterprise Can’t Overcome the Black Hole of a Logistical Logjam

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. It’s hot, humid, and summer-like on this early (meteorological) fall day. Currently, it’s 85˚F under sunny skies. With humidity at 63% and the wind blowing from the southwest at 4 MPH, the heat index is 94˚F. Today’s forecast: Thunderstorms are expected to roll through our area in the afternoon. The high will be 90˚F. Tonight, we can expect scattered rain showers. The low will be 75˚F. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 59 or Moderate.

One wonders how this guy got his box set in advance …..

Well, Tuesday the 7th came and went, and there’s still no sign of Paramount Home Media Distribution’s Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection box set with the remastered 4K UHD and 1080p Blu-rays. Not that I had any hopes of that happening; the status of that order still says Order Received -We’ll Email You When We Have a Shipping Date Estimate. And given the current state of the logistics chain in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, I seriously doubt that many customers will get their sets with the first four Star Trek feature films – Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – before the weekend.

Over on Blu-ray.com, a website where fans of physical media releases can find out about Blu-rays, DVDs, and even digital releases both old and new, many folks – guys mostly, are in a tizzy because Amazon, Best Buy, Deep Discount, Walmart, and other retailers “fucked up” or ”dropped the ball” with various pre-orders that include Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, both of which dropped yesterday.

Here are some of the latest posts on the topic as written in Blu-ray.com’s Forums:

Originally Posted by redgring rumboldt 

Talked with Amazon customer service just now, they insisted I’d receive the item on release date, despite my order still saying “Order Received” and the regular BD’s having shipped today.

Assuming I won’t get these on Tuesday from Amazon…

I replied:

That’s a logical and near-certain assumption to make. The Amazon customer rep you communicated with was either overly optimistic about Paramount’s shipments reaching Amazon’s warehouses by Labor Day or simply reluctant to say, “When we get the stock, we’ll ship your order as soon as possible.”

There is currently a logjam with new physical media releases. The pandemic has created more demand for Blu-rays, console games based on Blu-ray tech, and even DVDs. As I understand it, there’s only one manufacturing plant (perhaps two?) for the North American market that makes all of the disc-based media for all the studios and game companies in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

I’m also assuming that I won’t get my Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection tomorrow.

Member redring rumboldt added:

I just chatted with Amazon again. Their response below, verbatim:

“Yes, I see here the Estimated Delivery Date is on Thursday, September 23, 2021. And the delivery and tracking information will be updated accordingly. I see here the order is still in pending process and were still looking for the nearest amazon center to cater the package.”

Those of us that ordered from Amazon may have a couple more weeks to wait unfortunately. I pre-ordered in July and the regular BD’s have shipped and are due to arrive tomorrow.

Trump era politics and conspiracy theories infused this reply by KMFDMysEnya:

If one is in the US then best get used to slower deliveries higher prices and just inferior service full stop, all thanks to certain individuals who have vested financial interests to sabotage the USPS. What a Joy.

I too am in the holding pattern with Amazon as my order remains in limbo. So maybe by the end of the week or next. Unless they had units shipped to a nearby warehouse beforehand but time will tell tomorrow.

My reply:

Well, it’s not the USPS that is causing the delays. It’s the logjams in the entire retail and shipping network…globally. The ridiculously reduced replicating capacity, the effects of COVID-19 on the trucking industry (added on to the damage done to truckers by deregulation), the scarcity of distribution points, and the studios’ desire to drag us all into the world of streaming and streaming services…all of these factors are behind why retailers can’t fulfill our orders.

We need (at least some of us do, anyway) to inform ourselves about logistics and how things get from the factory to the consumer. Blaming the retailers is a futile (and unwarranted) exercise in finger-pointing. Instead, let’s pin the responsibility on the studios and their corporate owners who are – in great part, anyway – the true culprits of this mess with delayed shipments of Blu-rays.

The same “when is my order coming in?” theme recurs in the Zack Snyder’s Justice League thread,

A member with the tag dissolute dog asks:

 I wonder what’s going on.

Another member, kannibaliztik, replied concisely:

High demand, low supply.

I wrote a variation on my early replies:

There’s only one, as in “one is the loneliest number” disc replication plant for the North American market. It manufactures all the discs for mass media devices, including Blu-rays (HD and 4K UHD), game consoles like PlayStation, DVDs, and CDs. Every major studio gets its stock from this plant, which I believe is in Mexico.

There are only two (three max) distribution centers for the United States market. Not sure about Canada. Two additional plants were shut down (a pre-COVID-19 decision) recently, supposedly because the industry is trying shove streaming services to the public.

The COVID-19 pandemic has cut into the supply chain of the materials needed to make new discs. It has also affected the delivery system due to rising fuel prices (worldwide, not just the U.S.), truckers who get sick or die from COVID, and the need of companies such as DHL, UPS, FedEx,etc. to practice safe pandemic mitigation procedures.

Also, as “cool and convenient” streaming might be, it is also eating up a lot of bandwidth. With a lot of people still working remotely from home and/or using the Internet more to fight off boredom and loneliness, Wi-Fi use is up considerably. I have experienced issues when using Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and even Amazon Music due to problems caused by bandwidth deficits.

As a result, demand for disc media has increased at a time when the movie companies thought it had dropped (thanks to streaming). And with the shortage of replication plants in North America, the COVID pandemic, and other factors, there’s a logjam in the logistics of getting Blu-rays to the stores and online consumers.

That’s what’s happening.

Dissolute dog writes back:

Thank you. Do you know when the 2 additional plants were shut down, that you say happened recently? Because the pandemic has been going on for almost 2 years now, while the noticeable disc shortage in my area has been a much more recent thing. Of course over the years (since before the pandemic), the stores have gradually reduced their offerings of disc media more and more over time with the movie industry’s push towards streaming, and then of course the pandemic has worsened that further, but the precipitous drop I’ve seen recently in stores goes significantly beyond what I’ve seen over the past 2 years. So I am wondering the plants shutting down recently as you said might coincide with that.

To which I responded:

I don’t know when the distribution plants were closed; another Blu-ray.com member mentioned it earlier on this convoluted thread. All I know is that the decision to close the plants was made before the pandemic.

For the record, the logjam in the logistics chain caused by the pandemic is not just affecting the physical media market; it’s affecting everything. The trucking industry (which is shambolic even in a good, non-pandemic era) is having lots of issues. The shipping industry, the containers industry, the manufacturing industry…the whole works is having lots of issues. 

Bottom line: It’s not an easy time to be either a retailer or a consumer during a global pandemic and the film industry’s love affair with streaming.      

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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