This year, Hollywood studios made more money selling DVDs than they did selling movie tickets. Retailers should make plenty more this holiday season, with great new collections, including classic films digitally restored to look better than they did when they opened in theaters.
You'll find great music and classic TV, but don't forget to check bargain bins, where I found "Raging Bull," "Forrest Gump," "The Longest Day," "Patton," and the first three "Harry Potter" movies, all under $7.50 -- far less than a movie ticket in New York City.
Here's a look at just some of the great stocking stuffers, along with a few lumps of coal:
Gifts for Music Lovers
The Who -- Tommy and Quadrophenia Live With Friends: A three-DVD set with live performances of the band's most celebrated work and guest stars like Phil Collins and Elton John.
Cream -- Royal Albert Hall: The legendary band's first reunion in 37 years.
The Concert for Bangladesh: The 1971 charity concert organized by George Harrison and featuring a coherent Bob Dylan singing "Blowin' in the Wind" makes a great stocking stuffer.
A Christmas Carol/Miracle on 34th Street: In this seasonal pairing of two classic tales, you can get the original black and white "Miracle on 34th Street" along with George C. Scott in the 1984 TV version of "A Christmas Carol."
Christmas With the Kranks: Not nearly as funny as "Bad Santa," "The Santa Clause" (and "The Santa Clause 2") and "Elf" from recent Christmases past.
Home Alone: Yesssssssssss! (Plus, kids under 10 may never have seen it.)
The Muppet Christmas Carol: This release is dubbed "Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition." Can you believe our green friend hit the half-century mark? Must be something in eating flies that keeps you young.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas: I prefer the Boris Karloff animated version to the Jim Carrey mess. And so do the Whos down in Whoville.
The Polar Express: All aboard! Because it was done digitally, it looks even better on DVD than it did at the movies.
New Feature Films
Madagascar: A great gift for penguin lovers.
March of the Penguins: An even better gift for penguin lovers, and an Oscar favorite (for best documentary).
War of the Worlds: World-class special effects, Tom Cruise, and Dakota Fanning -- plus the stars of the 1950s original. Still, H.G. Wells' original story plays a bit old-fashioned.
The King Kong Collection: Because this two-disc edition adds "Son of Kong" and a personal favorite, "Mighty Joe Young," to the mix, it's the ultimate Kong set, and most a-peeling to banana lovers.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's summer movie is an international hit that's earned nearly half a billion dollars because it's fun.
Murderball: A great documentary about the men who play wheelchair rugby. A tribute to courage and inner strength.
Sky High: Kurt Russell is a superhero who sends his son off to superhero high school, a surprisingly well-done family film.
Fantastic Four: It's out for the holidays and, if you're hoping to pick this up, I hope your DVD shop is "out" for the holidays. This is a lump of coal in your stocking.
The Dukes of Hazzard: It's the unrated widescreen edition, which means they've added those scenes the studio made them cut because they were in bad taste. Unfortunately, the studio didn't make them cut enough. Another lump of coal.
Cinderella Man: A winner KO'd by bad marketing. Otherwise it'd be a contender for half a dozen Oscars. Note to Russell Crowe: Hold the phone!!!
Airplane: It's the new "Don't Call Me Shirley" widescreen edition. Just one of the silliest movies ever.
Bad News Bears: The Walter Matthau version: Si! The Billy Bob Thornton version: No!
Classic TV Collections
Some of the hottest selling DVDs are TV series, and from mid-November to Dec. 20, you'll see collections of hit shows -- some old, some new -- hitting the shelves. They include:
"Cheers" (Season Seven); "Frasier" (Season Seven): "Friends" (Season 10); "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (Season Five); "M*A*S*H" (Collector's Edition); "Murder She Wrote" (Season Two); "The Rockford Files" (Season One); "The West Wing" (Season Five); "The Dukes of Hazzard" (Season Five); "Miami Vice" (Season Two); and "The Simpsons" (Season Two).
Also available is "Barbra Streisand: The Television Specials." Catch her with Ray Charles, among other special guests. It's worth the price of admission all by itself.
And for the sci-fi fan, "The Ultimate Star Trek Collection," a 212-disc set that boldly goes where no Trekkie DVD collection has gone before, assembling 10 feature films and every episode from all five broadcast series, plus hours of interviews and rare footage. A bargain priced at under $2,499. And when I checked, Amazon.com was sold out.
In addition to the great DVDs on sale for $7.50 that I mentioned above, here are other bargains. They're all on sale for $10 or less. They're highly recommended as gifts or for personal viewing. In fact, these are all DVDs I have or would like to have in my personal collection:
"Airplane"; "Almost Famous"; "Anger Management"; "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery"; "Bend It Like Beckham"; "The Big Chill"; "Black Hawk Down"; "Caddyshack"; "Catch Me If You Can"; "Cheaper by the Dozen"; "Crash"; "Dirty Dancing"; "Erin Brockovich"; "Field of Dreams"; "Ghostbusters"; "Gladiator"; "The Godfather: Part II;" "The Hurricane"; "The Incredibles"; "Platoon"; "The Princess Bride"; "Saving Private Ryan"; "The School of Rock"; "Shakespeare in Love"; "Shrek 2"; "Sideways"; "Young Frankenstein"; and "You've Got Mail."
Here are bargains I found at Circuit City and Best Buy: "A Clockwork Orange"; "The Aviator"; "Beverly Hills Cop II"; "Bullitt"; "Blazing Saddles"; "Caddyshack"; "The Color Purple"; "Cheaper by Dozen" (Steve Martin); "Dirty Dancing"; "Full Metal Jacket"; "Forrest Gump"; "Gladiator"; "The Godfather"; "Ghostbusters"; "Green Mile"; "Hitch"; "Jerry Seinfeld: Live on Broadway"; "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"; "The Passion of the Christ"; "Saving Private Ryan"; "Scarface"; "Sideways"; and "The Silence of the Lambs"; "Superman"; "Troy" and "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."
And from Amazon.com: "8 Mile"; "A Beautiful Mind"; "About a Boy"; "Almost Famous"; "AI: Artificial Intelligence"; "American Beauty"; "Amistad"; "Animal House"; "Antz"; "Brewster's Millions"; "Cape Fear" (De Niro); "Catch Me If You Can"; "Chicken Run"; "The Day of the Jackal"; "Dazed and Confused"; "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid"; "Elizabeth"; "Erin Brockovich"; "Field of Dreams" "Fried Green Tomatoes"; "Going My Way"; "Havana" (Redford); "Kindergarten Cop"; "Love Actually"; "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels"; "Lost in Translation"; "Mo' Better Blues"; "Monsoon Wedding"; "Monty Python: The Meaning of Life"; "Notting Hill"; "October Sky"; "Out of Africa"; "Road to Perdition"; "Scent of a Woman"; "Traffic"; and "Twins."