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Site created 12/15/97.




page updated: 4/4/00



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 1/25/00 - 12/29/99)


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1/25/00

Well, the response to our Star Wars on DVD signature drive has been astounding. We're still trying to tally up the number of people who have signed thus far - it's a HUGE number, with four massive pages of signatures so far. And hundreds more are coming in every hour. Please know that due to the heavy demand, the petition page may be slow to access and respond. And we've had one or two bugs in the petition page which we're working to fix, so please be patient (Pete actually says things should be working okay now). But we're very proud of the tremendous support all of you are showing for our efforts.

We've had a whole slew of you ask us to invite our friends at fellow IGN.com affiliate The Force.net to join us in this campaign. We did approach them. They didn't reply to our e-mails, but in response to lots of you who contacted them, they posted a note on their site yesterday to the effect that they felt we were beating a dead horse. With all due respect, Pete and I don't agree. The bottom line is this - a LOT of you people have a LOT you want to say on this subject. And we want to make sure that Lucasfilm and Fox know just how MANY of you there are out there, and just how STRONGLY you really feel about this. Do we expect we'll change Lucas' mind about this? No, not really. But we want to make sure he gets the message, and we want to make sure that message is a powerful one.

Already, we've had an effect. Just yesterday afternoon, in reaction to our efforts and the Open Letter we published in Variety, the official Star Wars website posted this Q & A with producer Rick McCallum:

"Q: So many fans want Episode I and then the Classic Trilogy on DVD. It doesn't make sense to us that you aren't going to release at least Episode I. What’s going on?

A: Well there’s no conspiracy at work here, I assure you. It's really about exploiting an exciting medium in the best possible way. George hopes to do something special with the DVD release but he isn’t available to work on it right now since we’re in pre-production on Episode II, with principal photography scheduled to begin this summer in Australia. Until George has some time to concentrate on it, we don't anticipate releasing any of the Star Wars movies on DVD in the foreseeable future."


Let me make something clear, and I hope both Rick and George get this message. We really appreciate that Lucas wants to do something special with the DVDs, and we know there's been talk of "super special editions" on DVD once Lucas has time to work on them, after the completion of all the Star Wars films. Frankly, we can't wait to see what he's got planned. But why does there have to be only ONE DVD release of these films? Why not put the existing films in the series on DVD now as relatively standard editions? What we're hearing from people, is that the vast majority would be happy just to have the movies on DVD, in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. With THX involved, and new high-def transfers, we know the movies would look and sound spectacular. Throw in some trailers, maybe a few "making of" featurettes (that would be easily produced by the staff at Lucasfilm without Lucas' involvement), and some nifty menus, and most of us would gladly pay $29 a film. This approach was good enough for Steven Spielberg with his recent (and excellent) Saving Private Ryan DVD, so what can't Lucas try it? Then in 5 or 6 years, when Lucas has completed all of the films in the series, he can sit down and work on his amazing super deluxe DVDs, and I don't think anyone would hesitate to buy those as well.

Look - nobody is trying to be a pain in Lucas' side. But if there's TONS of people who are willing to buy the films on DVD now - why not take advantage of that? Why is the home video industry the only business where customers ACTUALLY HAVE TO BEG to get the kind of products they want? In any other business, the customer is always right and you work to satisfy them. What's wrong with this picture? Countless numbers of people are waiting to buy the Star Wars film on DVD. And if you told them that the discs will be out in three months, many of them would get in line now, money in hand.

You've got a team of pretty incredible people working for you at Luacsfilm, George - why not let them work on the discs while you keep doing your thing on Episode II? You'd make a lot of people very happy indeed. That's not so much to ask for, is it?

1/24/00

We're very pleased today to announce the launch of The Star Wars on DVD Campaign, a joint effort by The Digital Bits, DVD File.com and Digital Man Interactive. We've got a bunch of related items for you to see today, not the least of which is An Open Letter to George Lucas, which we jointly published in today's issue of Daily Variety magazine to help get the message heard. We'd like to get everyone's help in this - if you run a web site, we need you! And if you want your copy of Star Wars on DVD, we need your signature in our online petition drive. Click on The Star Wars on DVD Campaign link to learn more about our efforts, and to sign up. Uncle Obi-Wan wants YOU!

We hope you all had a great weekend. Our own Todd Doogan unfortunately had one he'd like to forget. You see, Todd lives in Atlanta, which was hit with a huge ice storm on Sunday. So when spoke with him last night on the phone, he didn't have power in his house. And he was all set to watch The Simpsons and the Golden Globe Awards last night too. Bummer. But never fear - we're pretty sure that Todd was able to rub a couple of sticks together and get a fire going. Once he shakes the icicles off his nose, he'll be just fine.

Speaking of the Golden Globes, you can drop on by the official site to get the recap on who won last night in case you missed it. As for me, I watched football and The X-Files - my traditional Sunday staples. Okay... I checked out the awards too. And I was particularly happy to see Toy Story 2 win Best Motion Picture Comedy. Speaking of which, I'd like to send out my congratulations to the good people at Pixar. And I'd like to pass on a personal note as well. This isn't going to mean anything to most of you, but if any of you reading this now work at Pixar, please pass the word on to Lee U. (and Laura too) that Bill Hunt says howdy. Congrats you two - saw you both on TV last night. Laura, you gotta give me an e-mail so we can catch up! It's been way too long since Madison... ;-)

Okay - moving on. One of our readers mentioned this, and we thought it worth repeating. On Friday's episode of The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Rosie had Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer (who starred in The Sound of Music) as guests. She's apparently a big fan of the movie, and talked about how great it was to see it on DVD. She talked briefly about DVD with her two guests, and then announced that the whole studio audience was getting a copy of the film on DVD. There's just one problem - The Sound of Music isn't on DVD yet. Just kinda makes you scratch you head...

Finally this morning, comes word that another judge has ruled in favor of the MPAA and the Hollywood studios in the DeCSS legal debacle. A judge in Santa Clara County (California) Superior Court issued an injunction on Friday, preventing web sites from offering the DeCSS software. You can read the story here at Yahoo. There's also a second story via Yahoo from Retuers.

Okay everyone... take another hit of that bad office coffee and get back to work! We'll be back later with more. Enjoy your Monday, and stay tuned...

1/21/00

Well, we've got some pretty cool stuff for you to check out today. First of all, we've got a big Rumor Mill update with tentative DVD release information for such titles as The Insider, Princess Mononoke, Being John Malkovich, End of Days, Man on the Moon, Sleepy Hollow and lots more. If you've got a favorite film from last year, it's probably listed there somewhere - don't miss it!

Also, we figured you might dig an early sneak peak at the cover artwork for those just announced Warner titles, Eyes Wide Shut, Three Kings and Diner. So here ya go...

Eyes Wide Shut DVDThree Kings DVDDiner DVD

There's big changes in store for DVD Express. After their recent merger with Maximum Holdings, DVD Express has paid $2 million to purchase the domain name Express.com, which they will become soon. And they'll be adding computer games, music and more to their line-up of offered products. Guess they're gonna be going after Amazon before long...

Speaking of DVD Express, they're running a special right now where you don't have to pay for shipping on discs you buy until tomorrow night (at Midnight PST). That shapes up to be a pretty good deal, so you might want to head on over there if you've got some DVDs to buy in the next 24 hours or so.

FYI - our friends over at Trimark have asked us to remind you all that they're holding a live online chat with actor Tom Sizemore on Tuesday, January 25th (the street date for Natural Born Killers) at 7 PM PST. Head on over to the Trimark Pictures DVD web site for all the details.

Image Entertainment's gone and done it again - they've updated their DVD News page with lots more great titles. Included this time are Never Cry Wolf (love that flick), Dave Matthews Band: Listener Supported, The Astronaut's Wife, Diner, The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo and more.

Finally today, the MPAA and the Hollywood studios seem to have won their first victory against those who would distribute the DeCSS software online. Check out the story at Yahoo (via Business Wire). A judge in U.S. District Court has granted an injunction against three Internet web site operators in New York, forcing them to remove the hacking software from their sites. Wired.com has more on the case, which is just one of two Federal cases currently underway.

Have a great weekend!

1/20/99

Okay... we've got those reviews for you! First of all, Todd's checked in with a look at Fox's Entrapment and Columbia TriStar's Universal Soldier: The Return. Yessir... Van Damage is back! (and we've added this new title to our series of reviews on his films on DVD).

But that's not all - for just 3 payments of $19.95, we'll send you this matching set of steak knives! Okay, we're kidding. But we do have one more review for you today, and we think it's pretty exciting. How about a First Look at Trimark's new director's cut DVD of Natural Born Killers? Cool, no?

Unfortunately, when I first saw NBK in the theater, I had a splitting headache going in. So you can imagine what I thought coming out. And having just recently seen Any Given Sunday (how the HELL can you screw up a football movie starring Al Pacino?), I personally think Oliver's taken one too many hits off the bong. But I'm gonna take another look at NBK on DVD, and see if (as Todd would say) I've been too hasty in judging Mr. Stone's most controversial work. Love it or hate it, it's worth spinning on DVD at least once.

In other news, we've got a look at some of the other cool titles that Trimark has in the works in today's update of The Rumor Mill. And we're gonna have bigger update in there tomorrow, with the latest on the forthcoming DVD release of some of your favorites from last year. Don't miss it!

And just in case you haven't seen it yet, here's a link to that Wired story on SpectraDisc (those new DVDs with the self-destructing coating). And as predicted, the reaction among Bits readers so far to Andy's story ranges from outright anger ("NOT DIVX AGAIN!?") to indifference. I'll be interested to see what the studios think about the idea.

Stay tuned...

1/19/00

Our update is a bit late in the day, but we'll be back earlier tomorrow with some new DVD reviews. In the meantime, we've got a massive new Upcoming DVD Cover Art update for you. We've just posted more than 60 new cover scans from forthcoming titles, and there are some great ones in the mix. Among those included are 187, Bats, The Astronaut's Wife, The Bear, The Big Sleep, Double Jeopardy, Brokedown Palace, Force 10 from Navarone, Galaxina, The End of Violence, The Maltese Falcon, Othello, Scooby-Doo, Tom & Jerry, The Sixth Sense, The Story of Us and the new "Gold" editions of Mulan and Pinocchio.

Check out Wired.com today for an interesting story on the new move by the DVD Copy Control Association (DVDCCA) to obtain a preliminary injunction against those distributing the CSS-encryption hacking software. Apparently, the judge in the case is reviewing relevant information, and needs more time to make his decision.

Also, our friend Andy Patrizio's gonna have another interesting story tomorrow over at Wired, on a new kind of "time-limited" DVD disks. The discs have a special clear coating on them - the laser in your player starts a chemical reaction that slowly turns the coating blue, which eventually blocks the laser from reading the disc. So once you get the disc home and start playing it, you have a limited window in which to watch it before it doesn't work anymore. Then you just throw it away. Basically, this is the Divx concept without the specially-equipped player and the phone line. I'm skeptical on the idea, especially in light of the reaction to Divx and its timely death. But I'd like to hear what some of you think. Look for Andy's story, and give me an e-mail.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 1/18/00 - 2:35 PM PST)

This just in: we've just gotten word that Warner Home Video has set March 14th as the street date for VHS and DVD versions of Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut. Warner has also slated Three Kings for VHS and DVD release on April 11th. There's no word on potential extras on Eyes, but Three Kings will include deleted scenes and a director's commentary track, and will also be "web-enabled". Both discs will carry an SRP of $24.98, with an MAP of $19.95.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/18/00 - 1:15 PM PST)

Not much happening news-wise today, so we'll make this quick and get back to work on some other goodies we've got planned for the next few days. But Todd Doogan has checked in again today with three more new DVD reviews. He's given Columbia TriStar's Desert Blue a spin, as well as Fox's Lake Placid and MGM's remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. Todd says Lake Placid is a better little B-movie than it got credit for in the press, and all three discs are worth a look.

Also Synapse has announced the DVD release of the sequel to Vampyros Lesbos... She Killed in Ecstasy. The disc will SRP for $29.99 and is expected on June 6th (tentatively). It will include a new widescreen digital transfer of the uncut version of the film (in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio), and the original German audio with removable English subtitles.

Stay tuned...

1/17/00

Well, I hope you all had a good weekend, and that lots of you here in the States are off on this Martin Luther King Day. Otherwise, I imagine you're sitting in your office or cubicle with that first cup of coffee in hand, just trying to face the new week, right? Let me tell ya... I feel your pain. My Minnesota Vikings lost this weekend in the playoffs, and it's time to start the annual "maybe next year" mantra. If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that the NFL conference championship games would be played by St. Louis, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Tennessee, I'd have told 'em to have their head examined. Go figure. Anyway, if you're back at work and/or recovering from football withdrawal, we've got some stuff for you to waste a little company time with and maybe start the week off right.

First of all, for those of you who don't read on the weekend, we posted the The 1st Annual Digital Bits Bitsy Awards very early on Saturday morning. It's definitely a must-see, and we think it's well worth the time.

Next up, we've got a second Message to George Lucas on behalf of Star Wars fans with DVD players. By the way... if any of you know of Star Wars DVD bootlegs out there OTHER than the ones you'll see by clicking on the message, please e-mail us good quality cover scans of them (don't compress them or size them small - we need high quality). We've counted 9 different bootlegs so far, but we know there's more. And we're trying to make a point...

Todd's got a new reviews for you today. He's looked at Columbia TriStar new DVD version of Dick. This comedy is definitely worth a look.

We've also gotten the first CEA DVD Player Sales numbers for the new year - some 44,191 players were sold in the week ending January 7th.

Around the Net, Image Entertainment has again updated their DVD News page with details on several new titles. Paramount's got El Dorado, True Grit, The Adventures of Sebastian Cole and Star Trek, Volumes 9 and 10 on the way. USA (formerly Polygram) is rolling out The Muse, Universal's got Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on the way, and there's more.

Okay... go get yourself another cup of coffee and have a great week! Stay tuned...

1/15/00

The 1st Annual Digital Bits Bitsy Awards are now online! (piped-in sound of a massive crowd cheering) Yeah, I know... they're like a day late. But not from lack of effort. We really had no idea how much work it was gonna take to get them all sorted out, and to get the pages formatted. Case in point - I have yet to sleep tonight. Or this morning. Is it morning? Yikes... it is. Well anyway, I digress. The point is that Todd, Frank and I worked very hard on them, and we think you'll find them worth checking out. We give you our picks for the Best and Worst DVD had to offer in 1999, and unlike other awards... we tell you why we picked 'em. And even if you don't agree with us, it's at least good water cooler fodder for Monday morning. Plus, we think the little Bitsy award dude we created is pretty neat. ;-)

Did you hear that all seven of the major Hollywood studios filed separate lawsuits on Friday to stop distribution of the CSS-hack? It's true - check out this press release... and this one too. I'm frankly too tired to care at the moment.

This just in from Doogan: "We just found out that if you head over to DVD Express and preorder the new DVD of A Better Place (and you're one of the first 1000 to do so) your copy will come signed by producer Kevin Smith and writer/director Vincent Pereira... AND will come with a piece of the work print for you to love and cherish. Good luck - it's apparently going fast."

Also, remember that editorial Todd did on Big Bad Jim Van Bebber? Well click on over to the Synapse website - Don May, Jr. has put up his version of the story... along with downloadable MP3 files of Jim's actual ranting phone messages to Don! I listened to just one and... well, if this weren't so scary, it would be pretty funny. Hell - it is funny. But there's some pretty nasty language used, so the easily offended need not listen. But everyone else should get a kick out of it...

Finally, a little nod to one of our sponsors - Amazon.com. Did you know that their CEO Jeff Bezos was named Time's Person of the Year for 1999? I don't know where our heads have been (buried up to our eyeballs in DVDs, I suppose), but we think it's pretty cool that an Internet type gets a mention. Congrats, Jeff!

Well, that's all for now. Enjoy our Bitsy awards, and we'll see you Monday. After much sleep. GO VIKINGS!

1/13/00

At last - our coverage of CES 2000 is complete! We've just posted my complete commentary to go along with all those pictures, and we've updated Frank's Notes with his thoughts on the event as well. Do check them out.

We've also updated our CEA DVD player sales chart with information for the last week of 1999 - 164,242 players were shipped into retail in the States. That makes 646,290 for December. And with that, the numbers for all of 1999 are complete as well. The yearly total? 4,019,389 players, bringing the total number of players shipped into Region 1 to 5,423,786 - almost 5.5 million! I think it's safe to say that 1999 was the Year of DVD. We've updated the listings above as well.

Around the Internet today, Image Entertainment has updated their DVD News Page again with news of lots more DVD titles from Disney, Warner and Artisan, just to name a few. There are some good titles mentioned here, including The Sixth Sense, Splendor In The Grass and The Limey: Special Edition, as well as updated information on Troma's Cannibal! The Musical and Killer Condom special editions. Speaking of Troma, we've got fun little special report coming soon, so stay tuned...

Also today, there's a new article over at Video Business that seems to refute some of what we've been hearing about the long wait for the Star Wars films on DVD. Here's the quote:

"The Lucasfilm spokeswoman shot down the rumor that Lucas intends to hold off releasing the trilogy on disc until all three installments have completed their theatrical runs, saying Lucas simply "hasn't made up his mind yet" about the timing of Phantom Menace's DVD release."

I suppose we should take that with a grain of salt, but maybe there's reason to hope. Keep your fingers crossed.

This just in from Doogan: "A little bird tells me that Synapse is about to announce the production and release onto DVD, of one of the best Japanese horror films (and a personal Oliver Stone favorite), Evil Dead Trap. God only knows when it will finally street, but it's a pretty cool announcement anyway..."

And finally today, you've heard of the Oscars and Emmys, and you know the Grammys and Golden Globes. We'd like to introduce you to the Bitsys! Tomorrow, we're going to debut the 1st Annual Digital Bits Bitsy Awards, to recognize that best (and worst) that 1999 had to offer for DVD fans. Don't miss it!

See you tomorrow...

(LATE UPDATE - 1/11/00 - 4:30 PM PST)

Just a quick update - keep your eyes peeled for the new TV commercials for today's video release of Toy Story. According to the TV ads now running, Toy Story is "Now available on Video and DVD." As we all know, there IS no DVD version of currently available. It's coming, but it's gonna be a while. Somebody in Disney marketing made a big boo-boo...

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/11/00 - Noon PST)

The CES stuff is almost done, including Frank's 2 cents on what he saw (and heard) at the show. We should have it us later this afternoon. But we wanted to jump in earlier with a couple of interesting things.

First of all, Doogan's been following a controversy that's just erupted over Synapse's about-to-street DVD of Deadbeat at Dawn. Apparently, director Jim Van Beeber is none too pleased with the DVD... and no one involved in the disc can figure out what he's talking about. Todd's got his perspective on the whole thing in today's new Doogan's Views column. Weird, man.

Columbia TriStar has set DVD versions of The Bear in the Big Blue House and IMAX's Thrill Ride: The Science of Fun to street on March 14th. Bear in the Big Blue House will include three episodes of the popular Jim Henson show, along with six sing-along songs. SRP is $24.95. And Thrill Ride includes talent files and a "making-of" featurette, also for $24.95. In addition to those two titles, the studio is releasing a DVD of Indochine on March 21st. This will include the extended international version of the film, along with talent files, for an SRP of $27.95.

Finally this morning, given all the hostility that seems to be brewing around the Net among those angry about George Lucas' decision to wait on DVD releases of the Star Wars films, we wanted to make a statement of our own on the subject. Remember how Lucasfilm took a poke at Godzilla's "Size Does Matter" campaign prior to the release of Episode I? Now it's OUR turn to take a poke - click here for The Digital Bits's message to George re: DVD. We just couldn't resist - hope he gets it! By the way, anyone who wants the image can take it and repost it as you will (we only ask that you leave it unedited, and maybe give us a link as credit). You can be sure that this isn't our last word on the subject. ;-)

Back later...

1/10/00

As you've probably noticed, all of the pictures we took at CES 2000 are up on the site. We've had lots of people asking us questions about them, and you should be aware that the commentary will be online soon to complete our coverage of the event.

In the meantime, Todd's been busy looking at more discs. Today, he's checked in with his thoughts on Dimension's Teaching Mrs. Tingle, which has dual DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks. And he's also taken a look at one of the more strange and interesting films either of us have seen on DVD in a while - Werner Herzog's Even Dwarfs Started Small from Anchor Bay. Be sure to check 'em out.

Image Entertainment's weighed in with another of their DVD News updates. This time around, they've got the skinny on a ton of Image-exclusive titles.

And those of you who care about the Star Wars DVD controversy will be delighted to learn that it's been covered by E! Online. George... we know you'd like to do something special with the DVDs yourself, and make those ultra super-cool DVD special editions when you've got the time. But in the meantime, how 'bout you pass the task off to some of your well-trained and highly-paid staff... and let them give us non-special edition discs now? Just give us anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 sound and a heap of trailers, and most will be plenty happy. But trust us on this - if you wait until 2005 to release these films on DVD, the balance of the Force among your loyal fans is gonna shift to the Dark Side. And I mean FAST.

Stay tuned...

1/8/00

Okay... the CES 2000 Picture Gallery is now online! We've got almost 80 pictures of everything DVD we could find at the show and then some. You'll see DVD-Audio players, DVD-Video players, progressive scan players, portables and combinations thereof. You'll also see technology demonstrations of DVD-R and HD-DVD. There's plasma screen digital sets, rear-projection digital, direct-view digital, "mobile" home theater - you name it.

The pictures took forever to get prepped for the site, but they're all there complete with captions. I'm still compiling my notes from the show - literally a WHOLE notebook full - so you'll notice that in between the pictures are lots of fill-in text chunks that look like this: sdfsdfsdf. Sometime this weekend, they'll be replaced with my commentary on the pictures, including information on lots of cool items NOT pictured - demonstrations and the like. I'd hoped to have it all up at once, but with the pictures done, I figured you'd waited long enough. So just be aware that if you have questions after looking at all the pix, they'll probably be answered by the commentary when it goes up. In addition, Frank's working hard on his thoughts for a new Frank's Notes column, which should be up sometime on Monday. He's going to give you his comments on the audio-related stuff at the show, specifically his opinion on direct comparisons between Sony's SACD and DVD-Audio. Note that you can also visit our friends at ETown for all the daily news from the show floor.

So enjoy the pix, and check back for all our notes and commentary over the next couple of days. We'll also be back on Monday with a full update, including more DVD reviews from Todd. Have a great weekend, and GO VIKINGS!

(LATE UPDATE - 1/7/00 - 10 PM PST)

I'm working on it... the CES coverage is coming! It turns out Frank and I took 114 pictures at the show yesterday, and we've weeded 'em down to about 80 that we like. But just getting them transferred from the digital camera took a good hour! I've been working hard to get 'em all cropped, cleaned up and compressed for the Net, and to get my thoughts together to go along with them. It's coming along, but it will probably be the wee early hours of Saturday morning before they're posted. But we've got LOTS of new DVD players and equipment to show you, so it's worth the wait.

In the meantime, we've posted the answers to Frank's Contest, and announced the winners as well. Click on over there to see who won, and thanks to everyone who played!

Back in a bit...

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/7/00 - 11:45 AM PST)

Whew! What a day yesterday was...! After a handful of hours of sleep, Frank and I blew through the Las Vegas Convention Center like a couple of barnstormers, taking in all the sights and sounds. And it was a surprisingly interesting show.

Usually, when you walk around CES, all you see are super-gadgets and "magic" box devices that you know will never see the light of day. If you're lucky, you might find a handful of devices that are practical, and will actually be made available to consumers. But this year, both Frank and I were struck by just how many of the products on display were not only practical, but useful, and already on the way to store shelves. Given that we were looking at DVD-related devices, there were a surprising number of cool new features and capabilities. DVD-Audio was in evidence at several manufacturers' displays, as were DVD-R capable players. There were a TON of new portable players to see, and lots of nifty little enhancement technologies.

Frank and I covered a LOT of ground yesterday, and took nearly a hundred pictures. After a long day on the show floor, we caught the DVD Video Group's annual reception at the Bellagio, which was packed wall-to-wall with industry executives and reporters. Then we high-tailed it out of there for the 4-hour drive back to Los Angeles. We got in very early in the morning, managed to catch a few winks, and now I'm hard at work on our full report. It's going to take quite a while to go through all the pictures, and get them all ready for the Net, so be patient. But when I get the report up later today, we think it will be worth the wait.

In the meantime, I thought it would be interesting to let you know about developments revealed at the Video Group reception last night. A number of interesting facts and figures were announced. First of all, the gathering was told that some 4 million DVD players were shipped in the States in 1999 alone. And the growth curve for the format is expected to accelerate dramatically. In January of 1999, there were 1.4 million players in the U.S. market. Now, there are some 5.25 million (nearly 5 million of which are believed to be IN homes, generating $1 billion in retail hardware sales in 1999). And by January of 2001, the industry expects 12 million players to be "installed" in consumers' homes. That would represent 10% of the VHS households in the States. Note that the industry believes that there are also 10 million DVD-ROM drives currently installed, in addition to the 5 million stand-alone players. That's 15 million DVD-capable devices in homes. These numbers make DVD the single most successful consumer electronics product launch ever.

And the good news isn't only on the hardware side. Some 100 million units of DVD software shipped in 1999 (10 million in Qtr. 1, 15 million in Qtr. 2, 25 million in Qtr. 3, and a whopping 50 million in Qtr. 4). That adds up to $2 billion in software sales for the studios in 1999 alone.

Ah... but that's not all. The DVD Video Group dramatically gave notice of its commitment to the forthcoming DVD-Audio format as well. The DVD Video Group last night officially changed its name to the DVD Entertainment Group (their new slogan is "DVD: The Medium of the Millennium"). It was further announced that all 5 major music companies (Warner Music, Universal, Sony Music, BMG and EMI) are now members, in order to ensure the smooth rollout of DVD-Audio as part of the DVD format standard. Sony Music has long been a member of the Group (as have a couple of the others). What does this mean for Sony's projections for their Super Audio CD (SACD) technology, previously seen as a competitor to DVD-Audio? The only thing we can say for sure is that Sony will definitely be supportive of DVD-Audio.

As for the software side of DVD-Audio, Warner Music's special DVD consultant (and the founder of Elektra Records), Jac Holzman, said that he expects musicians and the music industry as a whole to embrace DVD-Audio enthusiastically. "Any artist can get up to speed on 5.1 recording in 2 hours. DVD-Audio brings the poetry back into music making."

All right kids - I've got to get back to work on the CES report. I'll get it up as quickly as I can, without cutting corners on quality or content. Look for it later today. And we'll be back later also to announce the 20 winners of Frank's Contest. You can enter until 7 PM PST today, so get crackin'!

See you later...

1/6/00

Okay campers... it's the wee small hours of the AM and The Digital Bits is in Vegas baby! Our DVD-Audio guru Frank Ortiz and I are gettin' ready to make the rounds at CES later today, and get an up-close look-see at what's coming in the way of new equipment for our favorite format. It's going to be a very busy day, so this update will be brief. But back at the Bits' East Coast office in Atlanta, Todd's working hard on lots more reviews for you all. Today, he's taken a look at Synapse's new Vampyros Lesbos. It ain't for the kiddies, but for you fans of grade-B European lesbian vampire flicks, this disc will make you happy, happy, happy. And we KNOW you're out there...!

Anyway, we'll be back tomorrow with our report on the show and more. We're gonna try to get lots of pictures of the players and other goodies on display - even brought extra batteries for the digital camera! So until then, watch the news services (like Yahoo) for all the latest press releases from the show.

Hey... did you know that the Vikings are at 6 to 1 odds to win the Superbowl? You just KNOW I had to check the sportsbook for the odds on that... ;-)

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 1/5/00 - 3 PM PST)

All right - Doogan's back today with a trio of DVD reviews to kick off the New Year. You'll find his take on Disney's Lady and the Tramp, Universal's The Red Violin, and Columbia TriStar's Run Lola Run. Don't miss 'em!

Also, we wanted to let you know that the latest issue of Video Business has confirmed that story we had in the Rumor Mill last month about Disney dropping their DVD prices. Buena Vista has indeed quietly dropped the list price of their forthcoming Tarzan DVD to $34.95 from $39.95. The studio has also indicated that this lower DVD pricing may become permanent soon. And other studios are following suit. Columbia TriStar has reduced the SRP on several of their upcoming titles by $2-5, while Universal has also reduced the price of several of their Collector's Edition DVDs by some $3. Says Universal Home Video prez Craig Hornblau. "I think now the consumer base is larger and we're past the core videophile willing to pay more."

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/5/00 - 1:30 PM PST)

There's a bunch of news today, so let's do a quick rundown. First of all, CEA has forwarded us their DVD player sales numbers for the 4th week of December - 110,005 units sold into retail. With just one week left to report for 1999, the format's already grown to 5.25 million players in the States. Be sure to check the listing above, and the full chart, which have both been updated accordingly.

Now then... the official word is in. According to Fox and Lucasfilm, there will be no Star Wars DVDs in 2000. The official Star Wars website has issued a statement confirming that while April 4th, 2000 is the video release date for VHS, (as we reported back in November) don't expect a DVD. There's no word on a laserdisc version. You can also read the story via Yahoo. Looks like the bootleg DVD business just got a huge shot in the arm...

You may have heard this already, but Warner and CNN have teamed up to release VHS and DVD versions of the network's Millennium 2000 coverage. The tape and disc should have gone on sale yesterday at a store near you... although given what a snooze the whole thing was, why you'd want to own a copy, I don't know.

Columbia TriStar has announced a DVD version of Jakob the Liar, starring Robin Williams. The DVD will street on March 21st, and will SRP for $27.95. Look for it to include a making of featurette, the isolated score, and a director's commentary by Peter Kassovitz.

Media forecasters over at InfoTech have made their predictions for DVD in 2000, and things look rosy. They believe that DVD penetration into U.S. households will exceed 10% this year. If sales continue at the current rate, I'd say that's a safe bet.

And news is already starting to come in from CES: Panasonic has announced the debut of their DVD-Video recorders. Their first unit, the VDR-10000, "can record 2 hours of high-quality motion video in the SP mode and maximum 4 hours recording in the LP mode." Be sure to read the full press release. And a company in my neck of the woods, called Discovision Associates, has announced a DVD changer that can play both sides of your DVDs, eliminating the need to flip them. Cool.

The Digital Bits will be at CES all day tomorrow, and we'll be going around to take a look at all the latest DVD-related gadgets and gizmos. We'll be taking lots of pictures, and when we get back on Friday afternoon, we'll post our report on what we saw.

In the meantime, we'll be back later today with those reviews. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 1/4/00 - 1:30 PM PST)

Okay... we've just updated the Rumor Mill today with lots of just-announced upcoming DVD information from several studios. There are some good titles here, including The Limey, Anna and the King, Hook and Key Largo, so don't miss it.

Also, I just want to make sure all of you saw our post from 12/29, about all those new Disney classic animated films that are on their way to VHS and DVD later this year. There are a bunch of great classics listed, and we even have word on Toy Story. Do give it a read if you missed it over the holiday.

We've got a bunch of Image Entertainment news for you. According to Technicolor, Image was the biggest DVD title producer of 1999, with some 447 titles released during the year (Warner came in second with 262). And they've got lots of great titles coming in the new few weeks.

First of all, their KISS: The Second Coming and Sheryl Crow: Rockin' the Globe Live discs are due to street today. On January 11th, they'll be releasing Another Man's Poison with Bette Davis - one of Davis's only films (1952) that has never seen a North American home video release. It co-stars Gary Merrill and was produced by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in England. January 11th will also see the release of Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers, a 245 minute collection of classic Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials from the 1930s. Three new Buster Keaton DVDs also street on the same day, The Saphead (paired with The High Sign and One Week), Seven Chances (paired with Neighbors and The Balloonatic) and College (paired with Hard Luck, The Blacksmith and The Electric House)... all Keaton classics. January 18th will see the next two volumes of their Twilight Zone series released. Volume 16 features the episodes And When the Sky Was Opened, In His Image and The Last Night of a Jockey. Volume 17 includes What You Need, What's In the Box, The Mirror and The Old Man in the Cave. And for kids and nostalgia-fans, Image will be releasing a Davey and Goliath DVD on January 25th.

February 1st will see Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte and Brian Donlevy in 1954's noir-classic, The Big Combo. February 8th will see three more Chaplin DVD classics: City Lights (featuring the original mono soundtrack and a newly-recorded digital stereo recording of the original score), The Kid and A Dog's Life (on one disc), and The Circus. Also that day is Mike Nichols and Miranda Richardson in The Designated Mourner, based on the Wallace Shawn play. The DVD contains an audio commentary by Shawn. Classic Albums: Meatloaf - Bat Out of Hell and Classic Albums: Phil Collins - Face Value will also be released on February 8th. February 15th will see two more Twilight Zone discs. Volume 18 will include Shot An Arrow Into the Air, Death Ship and Still Valley. Volume 19 will include A Most Unusual Camera, The Jungle, The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms and Uncle Simon. February 15th will also be the release date of four Ed Wood movies: Bride of the Monster, Jail Bait, Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 From Outer Space. Plan 9 also includes the 2-hour long retrospective documentary, Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion, featuring interviews with stars Gregory Walcott, Carl Anthony, Paul Marco, Vampira and Conrad Brooks, U.S. sci-fi historian Forrest J. Ackerman and directors (and fans) Sam Raimi and Joe Dante. One of the first IMAX films ever made, Beavers, will also appear on the 15th. And finally, on February 22nd, the Grandfather of Gore comes to DVD! H.G. Lewis's Blood Trilogy will be released in newly remastered special editions (Blood Feast, Two Thousand Manicas and Color Me Blood Red). Whew!

We've got lots of good stuff coming for you tomorrow, including several new reviews and more. See you then!

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/4/00 - 10:30 AM PST)

We've got a larger update coming in a little while, but I wanted to jump in early to point out that you CAN NOT purchase those Star Wars bootleg DVDs from the DVD Inside website we mentioned yesterday. Since we linked to their site yesterday, they have been inundated with requests to purchase the discs. They DO NOT sell them, and they can't point you to a site that does. They simply have pictures of the discs for you to look at for information purposes only, rather like the Fudging the Force article we did a while back on the Episode I bootleg. Apparently, IGN.com yesterday said that the site is actually selling the discs, and it's causing lots of problems. DVD Inside has asked me to ask all of you to please not e-mail them wanting to buy the discs.

We'll be back with more soon, including more upcoming title information. Stay tuned...

1/3/00

Ah yes... back to the old grind. We know it's tough to come back to work after a nice long holiday, so we've got a little something to soften the blow for some of you - the first Rumor Mill post for 2000! Today, we have information for you on MGM and Paramount's tentatively planned May releases, as well as a laundry list of what Rhino has coming for early 2000. Bond, Elvis and a certain vengeful Scotsman are the order of the day...

It's a very slow news day, as just about everyone it seems is wading very carefully into 2000. So there's not much to report. And everyone is also busy getting ready for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, which promises to have lots of new DVD gear in the spotlight. We're going to be at CES for a day later this week, and we'll be giving you all a close-up look at the latest DVD technology, as always.

In the meantime, there are a few links worth checking out today. First of all, I recently found The God & Devil Show online, and man... is it ever funny. It's an animated interview program, where God and The Devil talk to various celebrities. The current episode features a chat with Walt Disney's cryogenically frozen head. But if you click on the Reruns section, you'll find a must-watch episode with George Lucas. Trust me - it's worth at least a smile...

Speaking of Lucas, the DVD Inside website (located in Germany) has just posted pictures from those Star Wars bootleg DVDs (including screen shots and menu pages), for those who are curious. Just scroll down the page a little for the links.

DreamWorks and Universal have launched their Gladiator web site, although there's not much on it now except the trailer. Sure looks cool though!

In response to my New Year's comments, it seems we CAN indeed do better than the new VW Bug in terms of creating Jetsons-like flying cars. At least, there are a few people who are trying. Check out Moller International's groovy new M400 Skycar. Thanks to everyone who sent that link!

And finally today, if you're looking for a great new movie to see, I'd like to recommend The Cider House Rules to you. It's one of the best films I've seen recently, and I have to tell you... the audience at the screening I went to this weekend actually applauded after the film was over. I don't want to spoil it by saying too much, but it's well worth a watch, and I hope it doesn't get overlooked at Oscar time.

Stay tuned...

1/1/2000 - Happy New Year!

See... it's 2000, and we're still here just the same as always! Okay... maybe not EXACTLY the same. If 20th Century Fox can become Fox 2000, we can at least change our logo, right? We had to do SOMETHING to commemorate the occasion. And sadly that trip to the Moon some of us had hoped as kids to be able to take by the year 2000 just wasn't happening. Where are all those Jetsons hover cars we were supposed to have by now, huh? That's what I wanna know. Is the new VW Bug REALLY the best we can do? Ah well... a fella can still dream.

From all of us here at The Digital Bits to all of you, have a happy and safe New Year!

See ya Monday!

Boy... that spiffy Y2K feeling sure does wear off fast when you start thinking about having to go back to work, doesn't it? ;-)

12/31/99

We've announced the winner of the December Trivia Contest - congratulations to Ingrid Stamatson of Wichita, Kansas! Ingrid correctly unscrambled all the names in the puzzle, and was selected in our drawing as the winner. Click here to see all of the answers - the names unscrambled. We had a record number of entries this time, with 1,864 in all! We got some great comments along with all the entries - everyone seems to really be enjoying the contests, and Sarah very much appreciates all your kind words. She definitely works hard on them, and she's got lots more in the works for next year. The next one will start in January, but you still have a chance to win some cool Columbia Records music DVDs in Frank's Contest, which runs until January 7th.

Thanks for playing! See you in 2000!

Whew! Stay tuned...

12/30/99

We've got some good information in today's Rumor Mill - you'll definitely not want to miss it. Some of our sources have been talking recently about director Steven Spielberg, and his plans for the DVD format, now that the market has topped 5 million players. Think you'll be happy campers after reading what they've been telling us. Here's a hint: objects in mirror ARE closer than they appear...

The December Trivia Contest ends at 7 PM PST tonight, so be sure to get your entries in fast for your chance to win that Pioneer DVD player! And don't forget Frank's Contest, which runs until January 7th - 20 people will take home a Columbia Records DVD, so get those entries in as well!

There's not much in the way of news today, except that the judge in the DeCSS lawsuit yesterday denied an industry motion to slap a temporary restraining order against those distributing the hacking software. Round One goes to the hackers... but it's only the opening salvo in a LONG battle. There's a few stories on this, first a brief one from Yahoo, and a longer one from them as well. And as always, the folks at Slashdot have something to say on the subject. Apparently, the defendants in court yesterday made their point by passing around copies of the DeCSS software on disc RIGHT THERE IN THE COURTROOM, which resulted in big laughs. Oh my....

Also today, ZDNet (via Yahoo) has a list of the Top 5 Biggest Events (in computing and technology) of the Past 1,000 Years, as well as the Top 5 Flops. Divx definitely made that second list.

Well, other than that we'll be back tonight to announce the winner of the Trivia Contest, this is our last Bits update for 1999. So assuming we all survive the Y2K bug, having to watch a fossilized Dick Clark act like a fool for one more year, and drinking way too much... we'll see you back here bright and early Monday, January 3rd! Be sure to watch out for guys with dynamite strapped to their bodies. And for the more impressionable of you out there, remember... the world isn't going to end tomorrow night. I don't know about you, but I plan to wake up at about Noon on Saturday morning and watch the Badgers stomp Stanford in the Rose Bowl. So any fire and brimstone had better wait until after the game... go Wisconsin! ;-)

From all us to all of you... have a Happy New Year!

12/29/99

Here's news we couldn't wait to post, and it's going to make a lot of you very happy indeed. Disney has revealed that they have plans to release a bunch more of their animated classics simultaneously on VHS and DVD in 2000!

Many of the non-moritorium animated favorites are being re-released as special "Gold" editions next year. Here's a list of what to expect (subject to change). Note that only titles for which a DVD release is confirmed are noted as such. However, Disney has said that their plan is to release a DVD version of all their animated films day-and-date with VHS whenever possible, so you can reasonably expect that most (if not all) of the titles below will include DVD editions.

January 11th - Toy Story (VHS only at this time - see below)

February 1st - Mulan (VHS and re-packaged DVD)

March 7th - Pinocchio (VHS and NEW DVD with the missing "making of" documentary seen previously on laserdisc)

April 4th - The Aristocats (VHS & DVD)

May 2nd - The Fox and the Hound (VHS & DVD), The Three Caballeros/ Saludos Amigos, A Bug's Life

June 6th - Make Mine Music/ Melody Time

June 20th - A Goofy Movie, Fun & Fancy Free

July 4th - Pocahontas, Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins

July 18th - The Rescuers Down Under, Robin Hood

August 1st - Hercules

September 5th - Pocahontas II

October 3rd - The Black Cauldron, The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad

November 7th - The Sword in the Stone, Oliver & Company, Bedknobs & Broomsticks, Pete's Dragon

December 5th - The Hunchback of Notre Dame

As far as Toy Story, I'm told that Pixar is working on creating a new DVD master directly from their digital animation files, as was done on A Bug's Life. But to do so requires that all of the files be recalled from data storage, and rebuilt in Pixar's computer systems for the transfer. In addition, a recomposed full frame version must also be created. And both of these processes are going to take time. The same holds true for an eventual release of Toy Story 2, although since work was only recently completed on this film, all of the data is currently available for use in mastering a DVD version. So while there will be DVD versions of both films, they may not appear until mid-2000 or later. Click to this link on the Disney.com website for more information on Disney's Gold Collection.

Also, you should be aware that many of the titles we've recently mentioned as being "in the works" from the studios for February and March have now been officially announced (such as MGM's slate). Check our Rumor Mill posts for the past six weeks or so for lists of all the specific titles (starting with our November 11th update).

In other news, there are a flurry of new reports on the Net today about that DeCSS lawsuit. Check out these articles from CNet, ZDNet and Reuters (via Yahoo) for the latest.

It's going to be extremely interesting to see how all this plays out. You can be certain that Hollywood and the major DVD manufacturers are going to be extremely aggressive in pressing their legal attack against those involved in the hack. But there are complicated issues at play here. There's the free speech argument - but free speech is limited in cases where a person is knowingly breaking the law, or encouraging people to do so (as is the case with the websites that offered the DeCSS software or links to it). What about the hackers who reverse-engineered the software itself? Is that illegal? Well... under U.S. law, circumventing copy-protection technology IS now illegal. But it's not against the law to purchase a product, reverse-engineer it to find out how it works, and then to make that information public... in the non-digital world at least. With software, it becomes more complicated. And with encryption-related issues, it's even more so. Add to that the fact that the alleged wrong-doers reside in multiple countries, the sheer amount of money involved (DVD is fast-growing into a major industry), and the likelihood that this incident (and the legal actions that result from it) will set a major precedent for digital copy-protection legislation and enforcement in the future (which is only going to become a bigger issue as time goes by)... and what you have here is a quagmire of anamorphic proportions.


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