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What's arguably the one and only gotta-have 3-D Blu-ray disc went on sale Wednesday, although you can only get one — officially, at least — bundled with a Panasonic 3-D TV or in a $400 box set. Another option for those wishing to revisit Pandora in 3-D at home: eBay, although you may need a couple of C-notes to close the deal.
Panasonic landed its exclusive deal for the "Avatar" 3-D Blu-ray several months ago, and as I blogged last month, there's no official line on when stand-alone versions of the disc will go on sale. At least one home video blogger thinks Panasonic has exclusive 3-D Blu-ray rights for "Avatar" locked up for a year. (A stand-alone 2-D version of "Avatar" has been available for months now, along with a just-released, three-disc "Extended Collector's Edition".)
So that means the only way to buy the 3-D Blu-ray version of "Avatar" through normal retail channels is with a new Panasonic Viera 3-D TV, which includes the "Avatar" disc and two pairs of 3-D glasses in a boxed "3D Full HD Ultimate Pack."
To be fair, Panasonic will also let "Avatar" fans purchase the "Ultimate Pack" separately, without a new 3-D TV — for the bargain price of $400. Yup, you heard it right.
Naturally, Panasonic's exclusivity deal has spawned a small but growing gray market for the "Avatar" 3-D Blu-ray on eBay, where bids for the disc range from $76 (for an auction with four days to go) to $200 and up, including one absurdly high (and hopefully bogus) bid for 490 British pounds (about $763).
Of course, the gray market for the stand-alone 3-D Blu-ray Avatar disc is barely a day old, so it'll be interesting to see where prices have settled after another week or so. It's certainly possible that bids for the "Avatar" 3-D disc will have fallen back to earth by, say, next month, although I doubt they'll approach the $30 mark of standard retail discs.
"Avatar" isn't the only 3-D blockbuster to get the exclusive Blu-ray treatment. Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" is also an exclusive 3-D Blu-ray "pack-in" with Sony 3-D TVs, although the disc is slated to arrive in stores as a stand-alone next week.
But "Avatar" still ranks as the highest-grossing — and, many would argue, the best — of the recent crop of 3-D movies, and speaking purely for myself, it's the only piece of 3-D content that would make me seriously think about buying a 3-D TV for my living room. (Notice I said "think about buying," not "immediately buy.")
So, why no stand-alone 3D "Avatar" Blu-ray? Besides the obvious reason — there's money to be made in exclusivity deals — producer Jon Landau recently said that he and director James Cameron are waiting to issue a stand-alone 3-D Blu-ray for the film until there are more 3-D TVs in living rooms.
Um ... wouldn't more 3-D Blu-ray content that viewers actually want to watch — like "Avatar" — drive more 3-D TV sales?
Anyway, what about you? Would you be more interested in 3-D TV if you could buy a 3-D Blu-ray of "Avatar" for a reasonable retail price?
— Ben Patterson is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.