When I say that Blade Runner was one of the first titles released on DVD, I’m not kidding. The exact launch date for DVD is a matter of debate; some technically consider March 1, 1997 as the official date, though our records show that March 19 technically marks the official start of the U.S. launch, and the format was actually launched first in Japan in November of 1996. Either way, the first players and movie discs weren’t available in the seven initial U.S. test markets (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Seattle, and Washington) until much later in March 1997.
But the first DVD titles didn’t appear at Best Buy, Tower Records, The Good Guys, and other video/electronics stores in those markets until March 24, and the first actual players didn’t arrive in stock until March 26. Warner launched the format with an initial slate of 25 titles, including Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut, Twister, Batman, GoldenEye, Eraser, The Fugitive, The Glimmer Man, The Mask, and Space Jam, among others. Those discs sold for between $19.95 and $24.98.
As was the case with one of our Retro Release Day titles last week (The Black Hole), Blade Runner was first released on DVD as a “flipper” disc. One side of the disc contained the film in anamorphic widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 displays (and if you don’t know what that means, let me point you to my official explainer from back in the day here at The Bits). The other side held a dreaded full frame version, meant for older 4x3 displays.
Both versions also included Dolby Surround Stereo audio, though the case shows the Dolby Digital logo. Dolby Digital was then a relatively audio format for home use. It appeared first in theaters in 1991, but the first home Dolby Digital mix was on the LaserDisc release of Clear and Present Danger in 1995.
Blade Runner was not only one of the first DVD launch titles, it became the first great Blu-ray special edition in 2007 with the Blade Runner: The Final Cut box set (including that awesome replica briefcase) – you can read my review of it here at The Bits – and one of the first must-have 4K Ultra HD releases too – see my review here.
That’s it for today’s Retro Release Day! Check back Thursday for the next installment, and if you share links to this column on social media, be sure to use tag #RetroReleaseDay.