4 Ridiculous Reasons Movies And Shows Aren't On Streaming (Other Than Taxes)
Between HBO Max deleting shows for tax purposes, Netflix cracking down on password sharing, and Amazon erasing "purchased" movies from people's libraries, 2022 is the year when the streaming giants seemingly decided to make sure the average internet user finally figures out what "torrenting" means. But these companies aren't always to blame for movies and shows getting memory holed. Notable pieces of media can become unavailable on streaming for various reasons, some of which are incredibly dumb. Such as ...
Kevin Smith's Dogma Is Being Held Hostage by Harvey Weinstein
Every day, someone browsing the IMDb page for Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, or Alan Rickman sees that they did a religious action comedy called Dogma in 1999 and thinks, "huh, sounds interesting." A few minutes later, they find out that this movie can't be (legally) bought or streamed anywhere and reasonably assume that it must have been a turd Affleck's lawyers have been trying to bury for the past 23 years.
But no: Dogma is actually good! And while both things don't always go hand in hand, it was also pretty profitable for the studio. So how come you can't watch it anymore? (Again: legally. We know you know about internet piracy, Zero Cool.) According to director Kevin Smith, it's because disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is "holding it hostage" like a frightened starlet in his hotel room.
As Smith explained in a recent interview with The Wrap, Weinstein's then-bosses at Disney weren't thrilled about releasing a comedy in which an abortion clinic worker tries to stop dickless angels from proving God wrong and destroying the universe. As a result, Weinstein ended up selling the movie to himself and then licensing it to other studios for distribution, but those licenses ran out a long time ago. Smith heard nothing more about the movie until 2017, when Weinstein called him out of the blue to say he totally wanted to re-release it and maybe make Dogma 2: Resurrect Harder.
Smith was excited about the idea ... until a week later, when the New York Times exposed Harvey Weinstein for doing some Harvey Weinstein-type s**t. Smith was shocked and now believes that Weinstein called him simply to sniff out if he'd talked to the Times. More recently, Smith learned that Weinstein has been trying to sell the movie for $5 million, which, believe it or not, the guy who wore the same five hockey jerseys for like 20 years seemingly does not have. His offers were "scoffed at," so the chances of Dogma coming to streaming or even getting a Blu-ray release you can actually buy (the only one is from 2008 and goes for big bucks on eBay) are slim at this point.
As Smith put it, "My movie about angels is owned by the devil himself." Other movies that seem to be trapped in Weinstein limbo include John Woo's Hard Boiled, Kids starring Rosario Dawson, and Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal. But hey, at least you can still easily watch Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code, which basically did the same plot as Dogma but as a serious thriller. Not all of Howard's movies are so readily available, though ...
Cocoon Just Didn't Sell Enough DVDs At Walmart In The '00s, Apparently
Cocoon was one of the biggest hits of 1985, and the moment Ron Howard realized he could make lots of money by aping Steven Spielberg. It's about a bunch of seniors who realize they can de-age themselves by swimming in a nasty-ass pool where Steve Guttenberg had psychic sex with an alien.
When one of its stars, the until then seemingly immortal Wilford Brimley, died in 2020, a lot of people rushed to streaming services to re-watch this movie, only to realize it wasn't there. Oh, and the only available Blu-Rays are from Europe -- the 2010 American release has been out of print for like a decade, which is why the movie's Amazon page is full of pissed-off reviews from people who couldn't play it in their North American devices and objected to it having foreign words on the cover.
Worse yet, some people tried to buy it digitally and ended up getting the disappointing non-Ron Howard sequel.
So why is such a fondly remembered movie nowhere to be seen online? Screenwriter John August asked Ron Howard in 2018 and got no response. Uproxx dug into the issue in 2020, and the best they could get was an anonymous source claiming the music rights haven't been cleared for new media or transnational sales, so that's "likely" why no one can touch it, though there could be other reasons. And if that's the case ... why not clear those rights? The movie is owned by 20th Century
Fox Studios, which is currently owned by Disney, so surely they can afford it?
Well, a month after Brimley's death, the Bulwark Goes to Hollywood podcast uncovered another piece of the puzzle: they interviewed Gerry Daly, a former home entertainment sales employee at Fox who claims that the movie's Blu-Ray is so elusive because it just didn't sell enough DVDs at retail in the '00s. Because of that, the stores determined the Blu-Ray wasn't worth their precious shelf space, didn't stock it, and the studio let it go out of print, giving preference to more profitable stuff like, say, an Alvin and the Chipmunks 4-in-1 movie pack.
Daly didn't have first-hand knowledge about the streaming situation, but given that the movie has already been deemed unworthy of further financial investment by the studio, it makes sense that they simply wouldn't bother forking in that extra cash to clear the music rights and get it on Disney+ or whatever. Maybe they'll consider it if aliens show up for real and they turn out to be just as incandescent and just as horny for Steve Guttenberg as the ones in this movie.
Anyway, the "music rights" problem isn't limited to movies...
Chicago Hope Isn't Streaming Because Of A Musical-Loving Surgeon
Whenever you notice a classic show isn't on streaming, just go ahead and assume the issue is "music rights." Moonlighting, the show that made Bruce Willis famous? Music rights. WKRP in Cincinnati? Music rights, duh. Northern Exposure? Music rights, which are also why the show's DVD sets were so ridiculously expensive. But at least that one did get a DVD release: Murphy Brown, which was popular enough to get a revival a few years ago, only got one season released on DVD and has never been on streaming because of its love for licensed songs.
The same goes for The Drew Carey Show: a single season on DVD, nothing on streaming. The TV show Ed (not to be confused with Ed TV), starring The Flash's Tom Cavanagh and Modern Family's Julie Bowen, never even came out on DVD. But the most baffling case is the '90s medical drama Chicago Hope, which racked up over 40 Emmy nominations and seven wins over six seasons. No DVDs in the US, no Blu-Rays, and, as far as we can tell, it has never been on streaming. Why? Because of scenes like this one, apparently:
See, Mandy Patinkin's surgeon character in the show liked belting out the occasional show tune, especially during surgery, which gave the show a delightful bit of personality in the '90s but has turned into a legal nightmare today. According to Dave McIntosh of Shout! Factory, the company that ends up releasing many of these classic shows on DVD and Blu-Ray, the high cost of licensing Broadway songs (yes, even if it's a doctor singing them) plus the fact that this critically-acclaimed show was never a huge hit (It was "Is Pepsi okay?" to ER's Coke.) have doomed it to digital obscurity. The only way to solve the situation might be to pay Patinkin to re-dub those scenes so that he's singing ad jingles to go with those CGI product placements streaming companies love adding now.
But at least we know why that show isn't on streaming, even if the reason is ridiculous. We can't say the same about ...
Nobody Knows What the Hell Happened to Sean Connery's The Name of the Rose
In The Name of the Rose, Sean Connery basically plays a medieval monk version of Sherlock Holmes who must solve a mystery in a 14th-century abbey with his young sidekick. Like Cocoon, it had a good cast (Connery, Christian Slater, Ron Perlman), made a good bunch of money in the '80s, had a few home video releases here and there, and dropped off the face of the earth. The only US Blu-Ray release goes for over $80 these days, and it hasn't been on any streaming services since at least 2017, according to a rigorous investigation called "looking up people complaining about it on Twitter."
Why? Nobody seems to know, though we have some ideas. First of all, the movie was made by seven different European production companies after Columbia Pictures pulled out from financing the film because they thought Connery was a washed-up has-been at that point. That probably means the distribution rights are a mess, especially since some of those companies don't even exist anymore.
Then there's the fact that the guy who wrote the original book, Umberto Eco, grew to dislike both the movie and the novel itself due to its massive popularity compared to the rest of this work, reportedly once saying, "I hate this book and I hope you hate it too." He never sold the movie rights to another book after that. While he did soften up a bit and call it "a nice movie" towards the end of his life, it's possible he set hurdles that prevented the movie from being widely distributed at some point.
And finally, this movie has a very long and uncomfortable to watch sex scene between a 15-year-old Christian Slater and a 20-year-old actress, so that might be a factor too. But again: who the hell knows? It's a mystery worthy of medieval monk James Bond himself.
Thumbnail: The Weinstein Company, Columbia Pictures, Neue Constantin Film, Acteurs Auteurs Associés