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Site created 12/15/97.




page updated: 5/27/99



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 4/2/99 - 3/19/99)


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4/2/99

Well, it's a bit of a slow news day today, but we've got a few new pieces of information in today's Rumor Mill update - some new Fox dates. Todd has also checked in with a new full-length DVD review, this time of Dee Snider's Strangeland. You may be thinking, "Twister Sister Dee Snider?" Yes indeed - and his movie is DEFINITELY twisted.

Updates for the next few days will be sporadic, if indeed any are posted at all. The reason? The Digital Bits is moving. OK, not the web site, but the home office anyway. This has been in the works for a few weeks, and is the reason the upgrade to version 2.0 has been put on hold, as well as a few other things we've been planning to rollout here on the site. Bottom line: we just need more space! The move begins today, and we likely won't be settled into our new offices, with Internet access fully restored, until Tuesday. But we should be back to full strength by Wednesday, and then we're gonna get busy with lots of stuff around the site. We appreciate your patience as we work to improve things.

In the meantime, those of you who are celebrating a holiday this weekend, enjoy yourselves. Oh, heck - all of you enjoy yourselves! Watch a few DVDs with the family and friends and relax. And we'll see you back here next week.

4/1/99

OK, that's the extent of my April Fools shenanigans. Divx is certainly the best... pay-per-view disc format I'm NOT likely to ever love. Contrary to "published reports" (good one, Pete!), I'm not rotting in DVD jail for buying Divx discs. Well, wait... I did buy a couple for the holidays, didn't I? But that was a joke (and yes, I know that's a crappy picture).

All right, on to business. I've spoken again this morning with Anchor Bay, who tells me that they will soon have a plan ready for those of us with defective Black Hole discs. I'll be receiving a call from then as soon as they know how exchanges will be handled, and I'll post it here immediately. Rest assured they are well aware of the error, and have every intention of correcting it.

We've got more good news to report in today's Rumor Mill on Titanic, as well as a partial list of Buena Vista's July DVDs (at least the day-and-date titles, anyway). Don't miss it. Also, a mini version of Fox's official press release on the Alien Legacy DVDs is now available online, so you can read it by clicking here (via Yahoo).

We're happy to announce that the April Trivia Contest is now on! This month's contest is quite a bit different - you'll be asked to identify some famous faces from the Pleasantville era of classic TV shows. It's a bit tougher than usual, but the reward is DEFINITELY worth it. This month, we're giving all of you a chance to win a new Pioneer DV-414 DVD player, and 6 great DVD movies. Oh... did I mention that the player is code-free? Yup, you can change the player's region settings via the remote and the on-screen menus. How that for a great prize? As if that's not enough, you'll also win a Trio for DVD kit from CD PlayRight. And if the winner correctly identifies our bonus faces, they'll also win Jim Taylor's fantastic tome DVD Demystified, courtesy of the author himself. You may recall that Jim is responsible for the invaluable DVD FAQ. The book is even more informative - a whopping 443 pages of detail on everything related to DVD. And included with the book, you'll get a special DVD disc that contains all of the Dolby Digital trailers, BOTH THX trailers (including the Pixar trailer), and more! We'll be reviewing the book later this month, so stay tuned. How's that for a contest, huh?

At the risk of sounding like a commercial, we'd like to thank everyone at DVD City for sponsoring our monthly contest. I've really been impressed by them - great prices, great service (and I say that from personal experience), a great selection of players and equipment, and perhaps best of all, you never have to pay sales tax (unless you live in Georgia). They do carry at least one model of code-free player (the aforementioned Pioneer DV-414). And as if it wasn't enough that they sponsor our Trivia Contest, DVD City has kindly extended a special offer to our readers. If you place an order with them (either by phone, or online), and mention The Digital Bits, you'll receive a 2% discount off of the value of the order. That can really add up when you're buying equipment. And sales commissions for us is not what this is about - a discount is a discount, and you are the ones who benefit. I'm not usually in the habit of mentioning stuff like this here on the Bits, for fear of sounding like I've sold out and made endorsement deals. But DVD City has just been so kind and generous to us, on behalf of our readers, that I wanted to return the favor somehow. So if you're in the market for a player or other equipment, give them a try - I think you won't regret it. Be sure to mention us to get your discount, and tell 'em thank you for supporting the Bits.

See you tomorrow!

3/31/99

By now you may have already heard, there is a major audio problem with Anchor Bay's The Black Hole DVD. Those of you who watch in Dolby Digital 5.1 will not hear any sound coming from your front right speaker. This is a shame, because aside from this problem, the DVD looks and sounds great. I received a copy to review, and noticed the problem almost immediately, followed by a flood of e-mail from readers experiencing the same thing. This appears to be a problem with the authoring. I've spoken to Anchor Bay about it, and they are definitely aware of the issue. They are in meetings now to determine how this can be fixed (likely a new batch of discs will have to be pressed). I should be able to inform you by next week, as to what those of you with defective discs will have to do, to get a corrected one. In the meantime, if you haven't yet picked the disc up, you might want to wait a bit. As I said, I'll report here as soon as I'm told anything official.

Wow, how's this for a damning non-endorsement: Best Buy has posted a new FAQ on the difference between Divx and DVD. If consumers don't choose DVD after reading this, I'm not sure what else it would take. Talk about a scathing commentary, or at least as scathing as you're likely to hear from any corporation short of Warner. Damn - you go, Best Buy!

A bunch of new DVD hardware and software products have recently been introduced, including DVD-ROM drives, and authoring packages for the industry. Be sure to check this Yahoo search for all the latest press releases.

There was a report in the trades yesterday, about how the average list price of DVD titles has gone up since the format's launch. I don't think that comes as any surprise. Rather than following Columbia and Warner into the $25 and under bracket, as many of you know, most of the studios are going $25-$35. According to a trend analysis by CD International, the average SRP has gone from $24.98 to $26.53 since DVD Day One - an increase of some 6.2%. I'm guessing prices will go up again when DVD-18 discs begin wide production, which will no doubt have higher manufacturing costs. On a positive note, along with that increase in price has come the addition of features. There are many more Collector's Edition and premium-featured DVDs being released. I guess I don't mind paying a little more for all the extras, but $30 or $35 for a movie only DVD is WAY too much. Let's hope all you industry folks understand that. As for how these prices affect sales, well that just depends on the title. Obviously, consumers seem willing to pay a little more in SOME cases at least - notice if you will, that the Die Hard Trilogy box set (which retails for $79.98) has been on the VideoScan Top 10 Selling DVD chart for a couple of weeks now.

The following is from Doogan:

Don May Jr., over at Synapse Films, gave us a call earlier today to let us know they updated their website located at www.synapse-films.com. Be sure to take a look at the site -- they've got some great stuff coming out soon on DVD, including Vampyros Lesbos, She Killed In Ecstasy, Fatal Frames, Brain Damage (Synapse's first exclusive release through Image, due out June 29th), Deadbeat At Dawn, Organ and A Better Place.

A Better Place is a pretty important title. This will mark the first time an independent video company will release a film from Kevin Smith's View Askew Productions. No small feat, indeed. For more info, go on over to the Synapse site. Oh, and check out the laserdisc section -- they've got some killer Gamera titles coming as well.

OK, back to Bill... just in time to sign off for today. Oh, one more thing - I'm told that Fox will have more information on their Alien Legacy 5th disc mail offer in the near future, so all those of you with questions as to how non-U.S. consumers will get the disc (etc...) should get your answers soon. We'll post here as soon as we hear anything.

See you soon!

3/30/99

Fox Home Entertainment has finally issued the press release for the Alien Legacy DVD set, and there's been some concern about what exactly you get by purchasing the box set, as opposed to just buying the discs individually. The box will contain a series of collector's cards, as well as a mail-in offer for a special documentary, commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Alien. You send in the coupon, and get back a 5th DVD disc, containing the documentary.

I've read some concerns that the documentary should have included on the Alien disc itself, but there are very good reasons why this wasn't possible. The primary reason, is that there are a tremendous amount of extras that will be included on the disc. And we have to remember that there is only so much space on even a dual-layered DVD. The film itself is 117 minutes long, and the desire was to keep the bitrate fairly high to ensure quality. The new documentary, that will come on the 5th disc, is well over an hour in length. In order to have included both on the same DVD, most of the other extras (deleted scenes, commentary, etc...) would have been sacrificed. By moving it to a 5th disc, that freed up a tremendous amount of space on the Alien disc, which is being put to very good use. And by making the documentary available by mail in the box set, the idea was to give those who went to the expense of purchasing it, something extra for their money. There will be more than enough stuff on the Alien disc to satisfy, believe me. We'll be posting a full and detailed list of the Alien DVD extras as soon as they're finalized (the film is currently undergoing MPEG-2 compression).

In other news, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette has an article on DVD and Divx available online. My favorite quote: "Divx has become a whipping boy for competitors and film enthusiasts such as Roger Ebert, who has been critical of the decision to release Divx movies in pan-and-scan (the standard format, which fills out your screen) rather than wide-screen, which has the black bars above and below the picture." You go, Roger.

We've also got a TON of upcoming DVD title information in today's Rumor Mill, including the first reliable word we've heard in some time on a final timeframe for a DVD release of Titanic - trust me, you'll definitely want to check it out.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 3/29/99 - 10:15 PM PST)

No doubt you've heard all about the new viruses circulating all over the Internet. I've been checking into them, and I wanted to alert all of you about them. The first of these is a worm virus called happy99.exe (see info here), and it's been circulating via e-mail. Dozens of those who are regular posters to alt.video.dvd have received this virus in the last week or two. I myself have gotten it at least twice, as an e-mail attachment. It makes changes to the wsock32.dll file in the Windows system folder. The other new virus, and the more dangerous one circulating now, is called W97M/Melissa (see info here). This is a Word 97 Macro virus, that is transmitted unknowingly via Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail. If you receive an e-mail with the subject: "Important Message From (username)", it may be infected.

Naturally, both of these viruses are targeted at PC users. To help protect yourself, it's just a good idea, whenever you get an .exe file via e-mail, NOT to run it. If you're not absolutely sure what it is, or where it came from, just delete it immediately, and you'll be OK. Those of you with anti-virus software, should now be able to download new updates (via your software maker's home page) to kill both of these new viruses. I downloaded the latest update to my Norton AntiVirus this afternoon, which did the trick on my system. If you don't use anti-virus software, you'd best get yourself some quick. There are several good packages on the market, including Norton, McAfee, and more. On the Net, it's always good to surf safe, folks.

See you tomorrow!

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/29/99 - 12:15 PM PST)

Some encouraging news today - as of March 19th, the total number of DVD players sold into retail is approaching 1.75 million. The exact figure, according to recent CEMA numbers, is 1,715,317 players. Keep in mind that these figures do include Divx capable players, but it's believed that those number somewhat less than 200,000. DVD makes up the lion's share, by far. That's not bad for the 2nd anniversary of the format (DVD was launched officially in late March of 1997). And DVD-ROMs continue to sell fairly well, although good numbers are hard to come by. In addition, a recent explosion in the sale of sub-$1,000 PCs is slowing the growth a bit (see story here). Sony's new Playstation equipped with DVD should help however, and there are now rumors circulating that Nintendo's next game platform will feature DVD as well (see report here).

There's more Alien Legacy artwork out there (click here for an image), but I'm told that the final DVD art may vary significantly from this packaging. Last I heard, each disc would look more in line with the individual one-sheet art for each film - we'll have to wait to see what Fox comes up with. Bottom line is that I don't believe this is how the final discs will look - I hope not anyway.

DVD Summit 2, the second pan-European DVD conference, starts tomorrow in Dublin. Be sure to check out the summit's official page for the latest news and press releases. It should be interesting to see what shakes out for you PAL folks (may there be good news a-plenty!).

I spoke last week with someone in the industry, who has gotten an advance look at all those upcoming Fox musicals, including The King and I, Oklahoma and State Fair. Word is they look terrific. I've also heard that Paramount's The Ten Commandments (which streets tomorrow on 2 discs) looks tremendous, as well. Very good to hear indeed.

On an off note, did any of you happen to catch the debut of Futurama from good old "30th Century Fox" last night? Savvy watchers may have noticed some familiar faces in the "hall of heads" - among those visible if you slow your VHS tape down frame by frame are Liz Taylor, Dennis Rodman, Barbara Streisand, Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny... and even Futurama creator Matt Groening - very funny!

I'll be dropping in again later with more, so stay tuned...

3/26/99

Some interesting news today. First of all, Laserviews has posted a massive DVD News update. Titles mentioned include: Bonnie & Clyde (LBX), Caddyshack 2, Divine Madness, Hudsucker Proxy, With Honors and more from Warner Bros. Of interesting note is that some of the titles, that are part of their "budget" line, are finally being released in widescreen, instead of just P&S. Also mentioned in the update are titles from Fox Lorber, Pioneer, and more, as well as some of the features to expect on the Alien Legacy DVDs from Fox (I'm told that this list is by no means complete).

I was watching the local evening news here last night, which had a story on Saving Private Ryan premiering on VHS on May 25th. It will be priced for rental (meaning $100 or so) for an undetermined time, and will feature an introduction by Spielberg himself. No word on the DVD, but I'd be surprised if it is released prior to the VHS version being repriced for sell-through late this year (that's just my own speculation, of course). I still find it odd to hear stuff like that on the news, but you'd be surprised just how often the entertainment industry finds it's way into the local coverage out here. Dennis Rodman is spotted at the airport and you'll see it live at 5. Anyway, getting back to Private Ryan, you can read the official press release here.

There's at least one market analyst that doesn't believe Blockbuster really intends to purchase a portion of Divx. You can read that fascinating story by clicking here. Ursula Moran, of Sanford Bernstein & Co., has reported that a Viacom official said yesterday that they won't make an equity investment in Divx. Things just seem to get weirder and weirder, don't they?

I spoke with Todd this morning, who tells me that he's gone back and looked at Die Hard with a Vengeance again, and has spotted some video quality issues that have caused him to revise his recent Die Hard Trilogy review, so you might want to see what's changed. Speaking of reviews, I spent last night watching Universal's All Quiet on the Western Front, and Polygram's Return to Paradise, so I'll be posting reviews of both of them over the weekend.

Finally today, the e-mail server that serves the Bits was on the fritz yesterday, so if you sent us e-mail from 11AM to about 7PM last night, it probably got bounced back to you. Things are finally working now though, so feel free to resend anything that may not have gotten through. Thanks for your patience.

Have a great weekend!

3/25/99

All right, another rainy day in Southern California? Yes, indeed. I'm not complaining mind you - I know lots of you are suffering MUCH worse. It's just a good day to sit inside with a mug of coffee and work on reviews, so that's what I'll be doing later this afternoon.

We've got some good stuff up for you today. First of all, Todd's checked in with his in-depth look at the Die Hard Trilogy. He reviews all three films as a set, but fully breaks down each one as well. I think you'll dig what he has to say - it's a pretty fine DVD box. And those of you who picked these DVDs up for $9.99 each at Comp USA scored a major bargain. I've also posted some interesting new information in today's Rumor Mill update, regarding a new DVD line from Roan, and a tidbit on a Criterion title.

Also today, industry journalist Paul Gluckman, of TV Digest, has kindly granted the Bits permission to reprint the full text of the articles that started all of this Blockbuster/Divx hoo-ha. I think you'll find them an interesting read. As I mentioned yesterday, you'll also read in them that electronic retailer The Wiz may be soon adding RCA and ProScan Divx players to their store inventories.

By the way, I've seen MGM's new A Fish Called Wanda DVD, and I've got to tell you that I enjoyed it quite a bit. It isn't exactly loaded with extras, and it's not anamorphic, but it does at least have both widescreen and full frame available. Plus there's a very cool Easter Egg on the disc - if you select the treasure chest (seen on the bottom of the main menu page) with your remote, you'll be treated to a fun little piece of video. If you've ever wanted one of those "virtual fish tanks" for your TV, now you have one - the infamous fish swims back and forth, blowing bubbles and doing its thing. The video loops continuously, until you select the treasure chest again. A fun little extra indeed.

By the way, I want to thank all of you who have e-mailed me to say that you agree wholeheartedly with my recent review of 1941. Judging by your comments, I'm not the only person who was disappointed by the disc - I've gotten some 163 messages thus far, from those in complete agreement. My point in the review was not to simply trash the disc, or Universal. I have a ton of respect for Universal's DVD work, and their Collector's Series DVDs in particular. But every once in a while, there seems to be a bit of a bump in the road over there, and 1941 is a prime example. I do realize that the DVD probably looks and sounds as good as any other recent release of the film on VHS or laserdisc. But as DVDs go, it's definitely substandard. Doesn't DVD set a higher standard in terms of quality? And shouldn't the studio try to meet that standard? If you can find 1941 for $15 or even $20, then go for it. But it certainly isn't worth paying $35 for - I did, and what I got for that money upset me quite a bit.

Think of it this way, there's great demand for Warner's Superman I and II on DVD right now, but the studio has wisely decided to delay releasing these films on the format, until such time as the film elements can undergo a major restoration. Unfortunately, many of the films made in the late 70s and early 80s are in need of such work - sadly they've deteriorated much faster than expected, due to the film stocks used. Star Wars was reportedly found to be in such bad condition, that if the Special Edition restoration work hadn't been done, the film might have been lost forever. My point is this - I would rather Universal had waited on 1941, take the time to do the work needed to restore its quality, give it a new high-def transfer, and then release it in another year or so. I understand there's a lot of pressure to get films on DVD quickly. But I don't know of a single consumer who would rather a DVD be rushed, just to meet a schedule, when waiting means MUCH better quality, and ultimately a better disc. Let's not forget that QUALITY is what DVD is all about. I hope the studios get this message.

Stay tuned...

3/24/99

No excuses - today's update is very late. There were good (and unavoidable) reasons for the delay, which I won't bore you with - suffice it to say that we really appreciate your patience. But at long last, our full-length review of Pleasantville is available, as well as Todd's look at Universal's Bride of Chucky. Darned if both aren't pretty fun DVDs.

Our friends over at The Big Picture have an interesting interview up with the DVD folks at Warner Bros, so be sure to check that out. Also, Bloomberg News has an interesting editorial by Kathyrn Harris on just exactly why Blockbuster might be interested in buying into Divx, so we'd recommend you read that as well.

Speaking of Divx, we'll be back tomorrow (earlier this time), with the full text of the articles that started all this Blockbuster purchase talk - Paul Gluckman's columns in TV Digest, which he's kindly given us permission to reprint here. According to the text, electronic retailer The Wiz may also be adding RCA and ProScan Divx players to their line-ups soon (groan - here we go again...). Plus, Todd and I will be back with another new DVD review or two.

See you in a few hours!

3/23/99

OK, Pleasantville is going to have to wait until tomorrow. The reason? Last night, I saw Universal's new 1941 DVD, a disc which I've been REALLY looking forward to. And I was just shocked at how bad it was. I'm talking major stinker here, and for $35 no less. So I've spent all morning working on a full-length review. Trust me - you'll all want to read it before you got out and buy the DVD. Be warned. I'm so disappointed by this disc, in fact, that it's just really put me in a foul mood, and frankly, I don't want to even look at another DVD for a few hours. I need to get outside, get some fresh air, and regain my cool... ;-)

In the meantime, I'd like to congratulate Image Entertainment, on some new additions to their DVD staff (see press release). And our friends over at NetFlix have scored something of a coup, by adding film critic Leonard Maltin to their columnist staff (be sure to check out his latest).

We'll be back tomorrow, with a better attitude, and Pleasantville at long last - promise.

3/22/99

So how did you all do on your Oscar picks? I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at this year's winners. I like it when no one film runs away with all the little gold dudes, and this year, I think everyone who won was deserving.

How can you NOT like Roberto Benigni? The guy is simply terrific - honest, funny, and so lacking of that Hollywood pomp and ego usually reserved for Best Actor winners. Plus, he's like caffeine incarnate - it's just a blast to watch what he does next! I must say, I had been foot-dragging somewhat when it came to seeing Life is Beautiful. You know how it is - in a year with so many smaller films nominated, it's tough to catch them all. And the fact that it has subtitles turns off lots of American viewers. But Sarah and I finally took the time to see both that, and Shakespeare in Love this weekend, and while I really loved Shakespeare (and was very glad to see Gwyneth get her statue), Life is Beautiful was, for me at least, hands down the best film of the year. Anyone who is saying today, "Who the HELL is Roberto Benigni, and how did he win Best Actor!?" should go see this film. Then you'll know EXACTLY why he deserved to win. Life is Beautiful is simply incredible - very funny, touching, poignant. And the ending is amazing. Again, I know subtitles can be tough, but you're doing yourself a major disservice if you miss this film.

I have to say, I was surprised that Shakespeare in Love won over Saving Private Ryan, especially after Spielberg took the Director Oscar, but I can't help but believe it's for the better. As I said, I did really love Shakespeare, and while I was also impressed by Private Ryan, the latter's schmaltzy ending just kind of turned me off. You know what I mean - the part where the old man breaks down in front of the tombstone (I don't want to give too much away)? Less is always more, in my opinion, and if this last scene had been handled more tastefully, the film would have had a much more lasting impact with me. Ah well - still a great film.

I've been told to expect eventual Miramax SEs of both Shakespeare and Life is Beautiful. Thin Red Line is already in production for DVD from Fox, for release this summer (June or July). Elizabeth is scheduled for 5/25 as a Polygram Special Edition. And Saving Private Ryan is definitely being planned for DVD - no release date has yet been announced, but the VHS version is expected in May or June, and I would expect it to be released as close to the VHS street date as possible, without compromising production quality. A pair of other nominated films (in other categories) are both also in the works for DVD - Gods and Monsters (tentative street date May 11th), and A Simple Plan.

Well, other than the Oscars, and seeing a couple of the Best Picture films, I spent this weekend knee deep in computer guts. I'm a PC user, so I'm used to having problems with my computer. I've spoken here before about all the technical problems I've had, and this weekend was the final straw. I was nearly finished writing my review of Pleasantville, when the dreaded "blue screen of death" appeared, and my computer crashed completely. I lost the entire file - it was corrupted by the sudden shutdown. So after screaming bloody murder for about an hour, I called a couple of friends (also long-suffering PC users) for some technical advice. I finally traced the problem to a combination of a short on my motherboard, and bad memory. So Sunday morning, my friend Jim and I hit a local computer show here in Orange County, CA, and I purchased some serious hardware: a brand new motherboard, 256 meg worth of memory chips, a new 32 meg video card (hardware enabled for DVD), and a faster Pentuim II 450Mhz processor. The rest of the day was spent ripping the guts out of my computer, and replacing them with the new (and hopefully fully-functional) items. The result, after about 5 hours of tedious work? Success! It's too early to tell if there any residual software bugs left, but the hardware is working much better. Plus, my computer is now screamin' fast. I know you Mac guys out there are thinking, "Man, what an idiot. I'm glad I have a Mac..." And you kit-bashing PC guys out there are thinking, "Awesome! You know, I need some new stuff for my computer too..." Ah yes - it's all part of the great technological circle of life...

You should all check out Laserviews today, which has posted a new DVD news update over the weekend. Among the titles listed are Days of Thunder, Drop Zone, Phantom, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Virtuosity from Paramount, all on 5/25 (and all but Days of Thunder are confirmed to be in anamorphic widescreen - bravo Paramount!). Perhaps best of all, buried deep in the update is news that Warner's oft-delayed Shawshank Redemption: SE DVD has been rescheduled for April 6th. That, I simply can't wait for - definitely one of my faves.

Anyway, now that all the gremlins have been banished from my computer, I'm already working to reconstruct my Pleasantville review, and write some others as well. So we'll be back tomorrow with those. In the meantime, I hope you all had a great weekend, and that you all won some cash in your office Oscar pool. See you tomorrow...!

3/19/99

Given all of the furor over the swirling Blockbuster/Divx rumors (see this Daily Variety story), I've had to spend most of my time in the last 24 hours chasing down leads, and doing research on the subject, so my Pleasantville review will have to wait until this weekend.

In the meantime, I spoke with Divx's Josh Dare this morning, but he was unable to comment on the rumor, other than to say that, "Divx can't comment on rumors." The more I dig into the issue, however, the more I've come to think that there may be substance to it. And, more importantly, that it doesn't necessarily bode ill for DVD.

First of all, the story apparently first appeared in industry journalist Paul Gluckman's column in TV Digest (you may recall that Paul was the moderator for the CES DVD Panel discussion). I can't imagine that Paul would report on a rumor that had no grounds in fact. And the more you think about it, the more it begins to make some sense in a strangely corporate, bean-counter kind of way. Consider that what the video industry fears about Divx (if it gains momentum), is that it means less trips to the video store by consumers - you never have to return the disc, and you would be able to buy them at the local convenience store, the grocery store (etc...) rather than a video retailer. Blockbuster has thus far been very careful wading into DVD, only renting the discs in a percentage of their locations - fears about Divx could very well be the reason. And what better way to be proactive in dealing with that threat, than to purchase an equity interest in it? Certainly, if you've got a chair at the Divx management table, you can have a more effective hand in preventing Divx discs from appearing at your local 7-11, which you wouldn't have otherwise. This is just my take, but I'm guessing that Blockbuster's interest in Divx is all about two things: leveraging themselves into a better position to control the "playing field" (so to speak), and hedging their bets in response to the threat from video-on-demand (Divx technology does at least require an initial trip to the store, which, in the worst scenario for Blockbuster, is better than none). The bottom line, is that I do not believe Blockbuster's activity in this area (whatever it may be) will have ANY affect on industry support for DVD. And I do not believe you'll see any effect on sister Viacom company Paramount's DVD program. DVD is here to stay folks - 1.6 million players, and 6 million DVD-ROM drives, is strong testament to that fact. So I say, let's all calm down and see what happens (but don't hesitate to speak your mind).

In other news, I've spoken today with Columbia TriStar's DVD guru, who has told me that their Monty Python and the Holy Grail DVD is temporarily on hold, but has definitely NOT been cancelled. As we've mentioned before, there are just some rights issues that need to be resolved before the disc can be released. Work on Taxi Driver and Ghostbusters is nearing completion, and word is that both discs are going to be really tremendous (particularly Ghostbusters, which will have lots of cool extra features). An interview with Paul Newman has just been shot for Absence of Malace, and Emma Thompson's commentary for Sense & Sensibility has also been recorded. Lots more cool stuff is in the works from the studio, so stay tuned.

Also today, I've gotten confirmation of some good new DVD titles coming in April and May. These titles are confirmed by dealer pre-order sheets, so they're being mentioned here, rather than in the Rumor Mill. Look for the recent TV remake of Alice In Wonderland (street date 5/25), and a double-feature disc of The Arrival I & II (5/18) from Artisan. Polygram is dealing Clay Pigeons and Return to Paradise (both on 4/20), and Very Bad Things (on 5/18). And True Lies and Romancing the Stone (both on 5/25) are confirmed from Fox.

We'll be back this weekend - see you then!


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