And you just thought the animated DTV Tales From The Black Freighter film was a gift to fans eager to see Alan Moore’s Watchmen adapted in toto. (Not by Toto, though a bar or two of the bands sweeping Dune score wouldn’t be wholly out of place during some of Dr. Manhattan’s scenes.) That’s not the case; the film might also be part of Warner Brothers’ plan to save DVD.

“We are offering retailers a meaningful opportunity to be involved with the theatrical event, to have a product that will generate foot traffic and sales,” said Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders to the New York Times. Huh?

Backtrack for a minute. You know about Watchmen (release date 3/6/09) and the associated Tales From The Black Freighter, which will adapt the graphic novel’s ‘comic within a comic’ storyline, a narrative that mirrors and reinforces the primary story, as a DVD release. That disc will hit on 3/10, with the ‘documentary’ Under The Hood as a special feature. Hood, for the uninitiated, is the book written by one of Watchmen‘s former heroes about the old crime-busting days. 

Now, thanks to the Times, we know that WB will hit big spenders multiple times, with the Freighter DVD, the inevitable Watchmen disc release, and an ‘ultimate edition’ that will edit the two features together into one film. Because Quentin Tarantino isn’t involved, this latter release is something that is likely to actually happen.

And because the studio sees Freighter as a feature-length ad for Watchmen, expect the quality on that and Under the Hood to be higher than ‘shoddy’ if perhaps not quite as good as ‘Kurosawa’. Furthermore, be prepared for “a dozen 22- to 26-minute Webisodes to help make the complex story easier for the uninitiated to digest. Called “The Watchmen Motion Comic,” it will be a panel-by-panel slide show of the graphic novel narrated by an actor.” DVD plans for those are to be determined, but you know how it’ll shake out.

Setting aside my general enthusiasm for the saturation strategy Zack Snyder has conned Warner Brothers into implementing, I have doubts about the studio’s attempt to spin the entire endeavor as a ‘savior of DVD’ strategy. The format is hardly dead, but it is contracting. If I ran WHV I’d be using all this material to push growth in the digital distribution sector. In fairness, the webisodes may point that direction, but I’m not really convinced.

(Thanks to Kyle Morgan for the tip.)