As I mentioned in last night's post, I had the good fortune to attend a
special DVD presentation at Disney yesterday. The purpose of the event
was to promote their new Vista Series and Platinum Collection DVDs, the
first examples of which will be Unbreakable
(street date 6/26) and Snow White and the
Seven Dwarfs (10/9), respectively.
These days, it almost seems as if studios keep trying to reinvent the
wheel with DVD. Is a title going to be a 2-disc special edition, or a
3-discer? Will it have multi-angle features on it? How many audio
commentaries can you get on one disc? Are the menus going to be 3D
animated? Do we need a new brand for it? MGM has multiple brand lines
for their titles - Western Legends, Contemporary Classics and Midnight
Movies to name but a few. New Line's terrific Platinum Series apparently
wasn't good enough, so they've added a new line (no pun intended) of
discs, called Infinifilm (which leave much to be desired - watch for our
review of Thirteen Days coming
soon). And now Disney DVDs will come in Vista and Platinum flavors in
addition to their current regular and Gold editions. So what makes Vista
and Platinum special in Disney's eyes? Well, let's take a step back
If you've followed the DVD player sales numbers, it should come as no
surprise that the industry expects some 36.7 million households to have
DVD playback capability by the end of 2001. If you figure (as does the
industry) that some 10 or 11 million of that is DVD-ROM drives in
computers, that leaves some 20 million homes in the U.S. with set-top
DVD players by the end of the year. Disney's been doing a lot of
research into their DVD consumers, and what they've discovered is that
even the most recent converts to the format have come to appreciate the
bonus materials you get on most DVDs - the bells and whistles we all
love. Even your average Midwestern mother of 3, for example, appreciates
the value of getting all those extras on a disc when she makes the
purchase. And if they aren't there, she feels like she's getting gipped
somehow. But does she actually take the time to watch all of those bonus
materials? Not so much. How many consumers actually make the effort to
experience all the extras they're getting on DVD? Sadly, not many.
That's where Disney's new DVD philosophy comes in. Their goal with DVD
is "to fully maximize DVD technology to provide consumers an
innovative, all-new entertainment experience." Whew! Sounds good,
right? Well, let's break down exactly how the studio proposes to do
this. First of all, their Vista Series. For all practical purposes, you
can think of a Vista Series disc to be something along the lines of Fight
Club, or New Line's Se7en,
in terms of creative effort (that's the goal, at least). The idea is to
take 2 or 3 contemporary, live action films a year, and give them the
ultra deluxe treatment. This would include brand new films (think Pearl
Harbor), and classic catalog titles as well (Tombstone
anyone?). Obviously, that means state-of-the-art picture and sound. But
it also means hours worth of supplements as well, created with the heavy
involvement of the director and other talent. The packaging will almost
always be special - upscale, custom cases of the likes of Fight
Club and Se7en. And
every aspect of the disc will be perfectly integrated to the story of
the movie, from packaging to menus. In the case of Unbreakable,
that means that the packaging is themed to tie into the story, and
includes a booklet on the contents of the set, along with an insert
featuring comic book-style character artwork from Alex Ross. The menus
reflect story themes - Disc One's is themed to David, and Disc Two
reflects Elijah's story. And the extras are designed to enhance your
appreciation of the film as well, from fully post-produced deleted
scenes (introduced by director M. Night Shyamalan), to a featurette on
comic book heroes with Samuel L. Jackson. There's more as well, but you
get the idea (we'll review the disc soon here at the Bits).
Buena Vista even has a slogan for their Vista Series - "Celebrating
the filmmaker's vision with imagination and content." Hey... we're
all for that. You gotta admire the effort, at least.
So that's the Vista Series. What about their much lauded Platinum
Collection discs? Well, as you may already know, these will feature the
studio's 10 premiere animated classics, released at a rate of 1 per year
for 10 years (the complete list of titles is as follows: Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty
and the Beast, Aladdin,
The Lion King, Bambi,
Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid,
Lady and the Tramp and 101
Dalmatians). Snow White
was selected first as it was the studio's first feature-length animated
film - makes sense. The whole idea with the Platinum Collection is "to
recreate the experience of seeing the film in the theater, using modern
digital technology to create the first truly immersive DVD experience."
Once again, that means state-of-the-art picture and sound quality.
For Snow White, Disney went back
to the original 1992 Kodak restoration and used the digital files
created at that time to render a brand new, fully-digital high
definition master. Then, they dug the film's original cell animation
artwork out of their archives and used the original hand-painted colors
as a guide to achieve the highest possibly color accuracy. Finally,
using a proprietary process, they eliminated much of the coarse film
grain that was present in the original negative. The result of this
effort is an image with more accurate color, greater range of contrast
and far more detail than has ever been seen before, even in the film's
original theatrical run. I got to see a before and after comparison of
the excellent 1992 restoration and the new DVD image, and the difference
is amazing. The whole idea was to make the film look as good as it would
have if you were standing over the animation stand, looking at the
original cell art. And they've definitely achieved that. The audio has
also been enhanced, from the original sound elements, to create a new
Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. This is not gimmicky surround sound (most of the
5.1 play comes in the music), but it makes a huge difference. The audio
experience is much more involving. And the original mono audio is also
The extras, which we listed yesterday, are extensive. In that way, you
can almost think of
Fantasia Anthology and
Ultimate Toy Box as the first Platinum Collection releases.
Here again, the studio has spared no expense. Snow
White will include virtually everything that was produced for
the laserdisc boxed edition, along with a ton of new material, created
just for this DVD. Among the highlights is an all-new recording of Some
Day My Prince Will Come by Barbra Streisand, available only
on this disc. There are also lots of things for the kids as well -
interactive games, sing-alongs and the like. The idea is to satisfy both
adults and children with this set, as well as both the casual viewer and
the die-hard fan alike.
But the big difference with the Platinum Collection isn't just the
extras - it's the interactivity. Remember when I said that one of the
things Disney's discovered is that the casual viewer appreciates the
bonus materials, but rarely takes the time to experience them all? Well,
Disney's trying to do something about that, by creating a "truly
immersive experience". The idea is to have the menu interaction
such that it draws you into the disc. For example, when you put Disc One
into your player, you'll be transported into the Witch's castle, where
the Magic Mirror will act as your host for the disc. He'll explain what
each of the areas on Disc One are, and will always have little funny
commentary for you. He also tells you that you can select a pair of
guided tours (one for each disc in the set). Doing so plays a video,
hosted by Roy Disney, Angela Lansbury and other famous Disney stars, who
explain all of the various extras on the set, and give you just a little
taste of each. The hope is that you'll be drawn in (and thus want to
experience everything), and the mystery about the more complex features
will be lifted for the casual viewer. It sounds cumbersome, but from
what I saw, it works surprisingly well. Best of all, at any time, more
experienced DVD viewers can skip all of this and go straight to more
standard menus to access the features quickly.
Disney's also tried to find other ways to bring you more into the
experience of the film - many of the menus are 3D rendered environments.
For example, when you choose to experience any of the many photo and
artwork galleries on Disc Two, you'll actually find yourself in a CG
rendered gallery, complete with pictures on the wall. You then select
the pictures one at a time with your remote, to enlarge them for closer
examination. And many of the images feature audio commentary as well,
which explains their significance. The idea is to recreate the
experience of walking through a museum, while holding one of those
little audio devices that talks into your ear about what you're seeing.
And it actually seems to work well.
So that's the idea behind Disney's Vista Series and Platinum
Collections in a nutshell. I like the idea of the Vista Series fine - I
think of it as Disney's version of New Line's impressive Platinum
Series. But it's the Platinum Collection I'm looking forward to. Disney
doesn't seem so much to be trying to reinvent DVD with the Platinum
Collection, but rather to give more people an easier way to experience
it. Will it work? Well, it looks good so far. We'll have to wait until
October 9th to find out for sure. Now if we could just get The
Lion King released in 2002 (Disney says they haven't decided
which title is coming next - hhmmmm)...
Have a good weekend!
(LATE UPDATE - 6/7/01 - 8 PM PDT)
One last piece of information for you today. Buena Vista Home
Entertainment officially announced their Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs DVD this afternoon, which is set
to street on October 9th (SRP $29.99). The 2-disc DVD "Platinum
Collection" release will include a tremendous amount of extras.
Here's a look at the cover art, and a rundown of what to expect...
Disc One - The Film
Disc One will include the fully restored film in its original full
frame aspect ratio, thanks to a new high-definition digital transfer.
Audio will be included in a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (in both English
and French), along with the original English mono. The disc is
THX-certified, and will also include The
Making of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
documentary, audio commentary featuring interview excerpts of Walt
Disney, an all-new recording of Some Day My
Prince Will Come by Barbra Streisand, the "Dopey's Wild
Mine Ride" interactive game, sing-along with Heigh-Ho,
the original Silly Symphony animated short The
Goddess of Spring, VIP Tours of Disc One and Disc Two, and
Disc Two - Supplemental Materials
Disc Two will include a Walt Disney biographical timeline, a Snow
White production timeline, the Brothers Grimm original
version of Snow White,
storyboard-to-film comparisons of 4 scenes, interactive galleries of
layouts, backgrounds and other artwork, camera test footage, character
design galleries, character voice talent, abandoned concepts, 5 deleted
scenes and sequences (including the song Music
in Your Soup), the original opening and end credits, film
footage and radio broadcast audio from the Los Angeles premiere,
theatrical trailers, the "Disney Through the Decades" timeline
(showcasing milestones in the studio's history), poster art, production
photos, merchandise photos, the original pressbook, the vintage B&W
short subjects A Trip Through Walt Disney
Studios and How Disney Cartoons
Are Made, and numerous supplemental audio tracks including
Lux Radio Theater broadcasts, radio commercials, the deleted song You're
Never Too Old to Be Young and original recording sessions.
And that's just skimming over the surface.
I attended a special DVD presentation at The Walt Disney Studios this
afternoon, during which details about the Snow
White disc were revealed. I got a sneak peek at the restored
picture quality, as well as some of the extras that will be included in
the set. And I also learned more about just what the studio has in store
for its Platinum Collection and Vista Series lines, and what the future
holds, in terms of DVD, from the studio overall. The Platinum Collection
DVDs, in particular, will offer some unique features not seen before on
other discs. I'll bring you my thoughts on the experience, and the
complete details, in tomorrow's post. Don't miss it!
(EARLY UPDATE - 6/7/01 - 10 AM PDT)
We've confirmed today that Paramount's Godfather
DVDs are about to be announced. You'll find that in today's update of
Rumor Mill, along with information on more new upcoming and
just announced DVDs. Don't miss it!
Also today, Columbia TriStar has sent word that director Kevin Smith
will be signing copies of the new Dogma:
Special Edition at Dave's Video - The Laser Place on Sunday,
July 1st from Noon to 2 PM PDT. He'll sign two items, one of which must
be a copy of the DVD purchased at the event. A portion of the proceeds
will be donated to a charity of Smith's choice. Dave's is located at
12144 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, California.
And speaking of laser, Laser
Exchange is having a huge blow-out sale on Japanese laserdiscs and
laserdisc box sets. Prices start at $24.95, which is amazing if you
remember how much it used to cost for these cool imports. You'll find
anime, American TV shows - you name it. It's well worth checking out if
you're a big laser fan.
(LATE UPDATE - 6/6/01 - 3 PM PDT)
Three quick things this afternoon. First, my e-mail is finally back up.
So you can once again reach me at
I had several hundred backlogged messages, so I expect it's going to
take a few days to read them all. But just be advised that everything is
finally back to normal here at the Bits.
And second, we've just announced the winners of our Trivia
Contest, which you'll find listed above. Congrats to all five
winners and thanks to everyone who played. The contest answers are
available by clicking
Finally, we've gotten word that Columbia TriStar's Gandhi
will be released on DVD on August 28th, for an SRP of $24.95. No word on
extras yet, but I'm sure we'll have 'em for you soon.
(EARLY UPDATE - 6/6/01 - 11:30 AM PDT)
All right... let's start today by catching up on a little bit of the
DVD news that's happened over the last week or so. First of all, MGM has
officially announced the release of The
Princess Bride: Special Edition. The long awaited disc (MGM's
most requested title) will street on September 4, for an SRP of $29.98.
The disc will present the film in anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby
Digital 5.1 audio, and will include clips from Cary Elwes' own home
video footage taken on the set, the 45-minute documentary As
You Wish (featuring all new interviews with Elwes, Robin
Wright Penn, director Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest,
Mandy Patinkin and author William Goldman), all new audio commentaries
by Reiner and Goldman, the original Making of
The Princess Bride featurette, trailers, TV spots, a photo
gallery and more. I feel better just knowing that the disc is on the
way, don't you?
MGM has also announced more of their Vintage Classics Collection,
including It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
(which will include outtakes and the 60-minute documentary Something
a Little Less Serious), Billy Wilder's Irma
La Douce, Sayonara and
King Solomon's Mines (all for
$19.98), as well as Frank Capra's A Hole in
the Head and a pair of Bette Davis films, Pocketful
of Miracles and The Little Foxes
(all for $14.95). All of the titles street on September 18th. More of
their Contemporary Classics Collection will arrive on September 4th,
including Home for the Holidays,
Little Man Tate (both with new
Jodi Foster audio commentaries) and The
French Lieutenant's Woman (all for $19.98). Eddie
and the Cruisers, The Woman in Red
and Under Fire will also appear on
DVD for $14.95. All of the titles will feature anamorphic widescreen
video. MGM also has more titles in their Western Legends Collection,
arriving on September 4th, including Along
Came Jones, Chato's Land,
Comes a Horseman, Lawman,
Quigley Down Under, The
Return of a Man Called Horse and Valdez
is Coming. Now if they'd just announce that Terminator:
SE, we'd all be happy campers.
Meanwhile, Columbia TriStar has announced the DVD release of Tomcats
on August 14th (SRP $24.95). Their release of The
Next Karate Kid has been moved to August 28th. Kramer
vs. Kramer is now set for August 28th as well. The disc will
include anamorphic widescreen video, the documentary Finding
the Truth: The Making of Kramer vs. Kramer, trailers and
more. Also that same day comes The Mask of
Zorro: Special Edition (which will include director's
commentary, a new documentary, deleted scenes, costume designs,
advertising materials, theatrical trailers and music videos by Marc
Anthony and Tina Arena) and My Best Friend's
Wedding: Special Edition (which will feature the Unveiled:
The Making of My Best Friend's Wedding documentary, wedding
do's and don'ts, the HBO: First Look
special, Say a Little Prayer
sing-along, a "wedding album" and lots more). Me
You Them is lined up for release on September 11th.
In other news,
a story over at Yahoo (via Daily
Variety) on how TV producers are starting to provide Emmy
screening material to eligible voters on DVD. Series offered on digital
disc so far include Everybody Loves Raymond,
Family Law, ER,
The West Wing and Third
And finally this morning, you know how damned hard it is these days to
open DVD packages, when they're all wrapped and security taped? Well...
Diego Padres pitcher Adam Eaton sure does. He actually cut himself
in the stomach while opening a package of DVDs with a pocket knife on
Wednesday night. He'll miss one game. Said Eaton, "They're in those
plastic packages that no one can get open. I was using a little knife to
cut it and it slipped." Okay... sure. It was a dumb mistake. But
Hollywood - you listening? Maybe a few less security stickers on every
We'll be back with to announce the Trivia
Contest winners soon, so stay tuned. And just FYI... my
e-mail is still down, although Todd's is working. I expect the problem
to be resolved today sometime.
What do you know? The server's working again! It took a while, and you
may have noticed that we were down for most of the weekend. But the
server's been moved to a better location and it's been fixed, upgraded
and tweaked. There are just a few remaining bugs that we're smoothing
out behind-the-scenes today, and then we expect to be fully back to
normal tomorrow morning. Please note that our e-mail still isn't back to
normal, but we expect that to be rectified by tomorrow morning as well.
So, thanks as always for your patience, and look for a nice big update
first thing in the morning to get us all back in the swing of things.
We'll announce the Trivia Contest
winners then as well.
Just be aware that we hate the downtime as much as you do, but it was
really unavoidable. When the server goes down, there's not much to be
done but try to pick up the pieces. Must have been that studio rental
pricing story we ran last week... ;-)
Okay... the server seems to be back up at the moment, but upgrades and
testing are going to make accessing The Bits
spotty all weekend. In addition, our e-mail is also down, and will
likely be down until Monday morning.
Also, in case you hadn't noticed, the Home
Theater Forum is also down today. That's because The
Bits and HTF are on the
same server. I spoke with Ron and Parker this morning, and they tell me
that the HTF boards are probably
going to be down until late Sunday at the earliest, also due to the
upgrades and testing. Their e-mail is also affected. I know some of you
are probably going through home theater and DVD withdrawal today, with
both sites down. But hang tight - we'll be back better than ever soon.
And, as always, thanks for your patience. ;-)
Maybe I can figure out a way to pipe Musak in here to keep you amused
in the meantime. HHhhhhmmmm.... How 'bout some useless trivia? Did you
know that the shelf life of an unopened Hostess Twinkie is nearly 10
years (although uncorroborated rumors persist that they could last as
long as 100)? No kidding. Discuss...
Well, how do you like that? I went to upload yesterday's post last
night, and the server wouldn't let me do it. Then, sometime early this
morning, it crashed completely. Internet 1st is working on it today, and
making improvements, so things may be a little buggy. Just be advised
that we may be down for a little while. E-mail may also be affected for
a short time, so don't be surprised if you try to send us a message and
it gets bounced back. Just try again later.
Now then... we've got another upcoming DVD update in
Rumor Mill today, covering New Line, Warner, Image, Disney,
MGM and more. Don't miss it.
Also today, there was a great story this week in Video
Store magazine on the threat of DVD rental pricing, by editor
Thomas K. Arnold. You can find
article (and a
editorial) at the publication's
Here's the gist. Initially, the studios were fearful of a viable DVD
rental market, because they felt that it would eat into their VHS rental
profits. VHS rental cassettes, even under revenue-sharing agreements,
still provide the studios with more than $40 per cassette. But the low
sell-through cost of DVDs has allowed the retailers to buy rental copies
wholesale at market prices, which are less than half what they would pay
the studios. As the studios lose profits from VHS, they want a bigger
piece of the DVD rental pie from retailers. What many studios are
quietly planning is a new two-tiered pricing structure for DVD. New
titles would be priced at, say $40 or $50 right when they're released,
and then repriced for sellthrough a few months later. The "rental"
version of the DVD would be a movie-only disc, with the sellthrough disc
released as a special edition.
So who wants two-tiered pricing? Well... certainly not small video
retailers. Small retailers dislike it, because it will almost certainly
force them into DVD revenue-sharing deals similar to the ones they have
now with VHS, which they already hate. Right now, they're doing great
business with DVD sales (which is currently the strongest segment of
their business), and such a plan would steer consumers toward DVD
renting instead. That could slow the (thus far) tremendous growth of the
format among consumers. But Blockbuster's been pulling for it for some
time (since they have the power to negotiate better revenue-sharing
deals with the studios than smaller retailers, they'll be able to get
more product for less, rent it for less, and thus force even more
smaller video rental stores out of business than they already have).
None of this would likely occur until Q1 2002 at the earliest. But, at
least one studio is expected to announce it this year, with the first
affected titles streeting in January (possibly Warner, since WHV
president Warren Lieberfarb's taken up the cause big-time... but that's
just speculation). And at least one major retail (non-renting) chain is
VERY unhappy about it, and may be planning to retaliate by buying far
less catalog product (Best Buy, anyone?). Bottom line - two-tiered
rental pricing is probably going to happen. As DVD's success cuts deeper
and deeper into the VHS rental business, it becomes ever more attractive
to Hollywood. But it looks likely to trigger a new battleground between
the studios, retailers and small rental chains. Where do consumers fit
into this mix and how will they react? That remains to be seen.
I just wanted to quickly chime in here to let you know that I've got to
run an errand up in L.A. this afternoon, so today's update is going to
be posted this evening. So check back then. Thanks!
So... is everyone enjoying your 3-day holiday weekend? Just on the off
chance that you aren't all off watching around-the-clock showings of
Pearl Harbor, we thought we'd give
you some more cool upcoming DVD news. You'll find that today in
Rumor Mill. Look for a rundown of titles in the works from
Columbia TriStar, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal and DreamWorks.
There's lots of new titles mentioned, including word on new Classic
Monster DVDs from Universal and lots more. So don't miss it. And we'll
have a look at other studios tomorrow.
And speaking of Pearl Harbor, I
had the chance to see the film at an 11 PM showing on Friday. Here's my
advice. Don't go in expecting a great film, 'cause you'll be
disappointed. The plot is paper-thin (a laughable romantic love triangle
between Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale) and it exists
only as an excuse to hang the battle scenes on. Worse yet, the scenes
showing the Japanese planning the attack remind me of something out of
Midway. But there are enough
amusing secondary characters to keep your interest (for the most part)
until you get to the battle scenes. And the battle scenes are absolutely
first rate. They were well worth the price of admission (for me, anyway)
all by themselves. But when you're done, you're gonna be sick of
Hollywood films that fill the screen with pretty (yet mediocre) actors.
I left the theater having been mildly amused by the film overall, and
completely entertained by the action scenes. Once thing's for sure -
this is gonna be a great spin on DVD.
Actually, the best thing about going to the film was getting to see the
new trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The
Fellowship of the Ring (which is
online). There were about 2,000 people in the theater I was in,
and almost every last one of them went nuts for it. I already can't wait
for December. VERY cool.
See you tomorrow!
We've got a quick update of some cool upcoming DVDs that have just been
(or are soon to be) announced. You'll find that today in
Rumor Mill. There's good news for Guffman
fans (and some surprises for late in the year), so don't miss it.
So you want to dial up your phone and watch your favorite movie in DVD
quality via pay-per-view? Well... a new company called Terabeam says its
technology can make it possible. Terabeam wants to create a nationwide
wireless network that beams optical communications signals through the
air instead of through glass fiber buried in the ground. With speeds
equal to roughly 647 T-1 lines, which transmit data at about 1.5
megabytes per second per line, Terabeam can simultaneously beam four DVD
movies, a videoconference, and another movie on high-definition
here for more via Yahoo.
via Yahoo that Tom Waits' concert movie Big
Time is on its way to DVD,
with a concert DVD from the band Train.
Finally, this morning,
Today.com has a good cover story on DVD extras, featuring a
look at Warner's upcoming Driven
and other titles. It's definitely worth a look.
(LATE UPDATE -
5/24/01 - 2:30 PM PDT)
A couple more things for you this afternoon. First of all, we got more
DVD reviews for you to check out. Todd's taken a closer look at 20th
Century Fox's new
Monroe: The Diamond Collection on DVD. All 6 discs in the set
have been reviewed, including
Seven Year Itch,
to Marry a Millionaire,
No Business Like Show Business,
Prefer Blondes and
Monroe: The Final Days. This batch of reviews takes us past
the 800 DVDs reviewed mark here at The
Digital Bits. Who-ho! ;-)
Also this afternoon, we've gotten word that Time Life is going to be
releasing episodes of The Muppet Show
on DVD, starting in late June. Word is that the DVDs will basically be
re-hashes of the VHS "Best of" collections that are already
here for details on the VHS tapes (via the Time Life website). And
look for information about the DVDs to appear there soon as well. Thanks
to Bits reader Jeff for the heads
(EARLY UPDATE - 5/24/01 - 11 AM PDT)
Well... something interesting today. As you all know, the DVD format is
divided into regions, to allow the studios better control of their film
product on DVD as it's released worldwide. Now it seems that Australia
plans to challenge the region coding system. The Australian Competition
and Consumer Commission says that the major Hollywood studios and DVD
player manufacturers have conspired to create a system that restricts
the access Australian consumers have to DVD material. The basic problem
is that only about 720 DVD movies are available in Region 4 (of which
Australia is a part), while more than 10,000 Region 1 DVDs have been
released (in North America). And when the DVDs are released in Region 4,
they tend to be more expensive than Region 1 discs, and often have less
content on them. Basically, the ACCC feels Australian consumers are
getting the shaft. And we at The Digital Bits
feel they have a very valid argument. Says ACCC Commissioner Ross Jones,
"Their [the studios] sales are generally too small to justify
catering for region four. This reduces competition to the advantage of
US studios." He's right. And the people who suffer most are Region
4 movie fans. The ACCC is trying to get a judge to mandate that all DVD
players sold in Australia be equipped with multi-region capability, so
that consumers there can buy cheaper DVDs from overseas. And that would
open a huge can of worms for the studios. If the challenge is
successful, you can bet that countries in other regions will follow
Australia's lead. You can read more on this by
In other news today, how'd you like to have your complete personal DNA
record available on a DVD-ROM disc? You may have that option in the next
20 years or so according to a number of experts at a technology
conference held in Cambridge on Thursday.
here for more on that via Yahoo.
As you may recall, I recently had the pleasure of attending a recent
meeting of Southern California members of the
Theater Forum. The group now has an
scrapbook of photos from the weekend that you might find
interesting. Thanks to Ron Epstein for putting it together (and Dave
Tolsky for organizing and hosting the event).
Are you a fan of the BBC's classic Doctor
Who TV series? You'll be very happy this Fall then, 'cause
The Five Doctors is on its way to
DVD here in the States. Here's more information via
Doctor Who Restoration Team website:
"A US DVD release is planned for Autumn
2001. The DVD producers have taken our master materials as the source
for their video and audio, including the 5.1 sound mix and the clean
music, which will hopefully be presented at the correct speed. However,
they commissioned us to produce a commentary track for the disc, which
was recorded on 14 May 2001 in Theatre R at Television Centre. The
contributors were Peter Davison and the story's writer, Terrance Dicks."
Sweet. You can find more information on possible DVD releases from the
series at The
Doctor Who News Page at Outpost Gallifrey. Thanks to Bits
reader Bob for the heads-up.
And finally this morning, we've got an interesting new Lucasfilm rumor
in The Rumor
Mill. File it in the "take with big salt lick"
category, but it's very interesting considering some of the other rumors
we've been hearing lately. Do check it out.
We wanted to point out an interesting news item that's appeared in Daily
Variety and then
over at Coming Soon and also
It seems that Lord of the Rings
director Peter Jackson is already at work on the DVDs of the films, with
a "director's cut" boxed set due in 2004. Very cool.
Also today, we've been getting confirmation from retailers about the
street date for Fox & Lucasfilm's Episode
I DVD. You'll find that in today's
in news from Yahoo, the MPAA vs. 2600 lawsuit has apparently taken
an unusual turn - the judges considering the case have issued a series
of questions that seek to determine how to apply the First
Amendment to computer code. Fascinating.
(LATER UPDATE - 5/22/01 - 9 PM PDT)
Okay... one last update today. First of all, we've gotten word from a
retail source that we trust that indicates MGM's Hannibal
and The Silence of the Lambs
special editions are set to street on August 21st. Given that, I'd also
be willing to lay odds that Universal's Legend:
Ultimate Edition will street the same day (although that's
just speculation on my part - the title was originally set to street the
same day as Gladiator, another
Ridley Scott film).
here for a look at the DVD cover art and a list of some of the
contents on Hannibal and Silence.
And look for an official announcement before the end of the month.
Now then... we've also just posted the new
which gives you all a chance to win some great DVDs from MGM, 20th
Century Fox & Pioneer. There will be five winners, so be sure to
check it out.
(LATE UPDATE - 5/22/01 - 3:30 PM PDT)
We've got more Kubrick for you this afternoon - updated reviews of
Shining and the documentary,
Kubrick: A Life in Pictures... all from Warner's new Stanley
Kubrick Collection on DVD. We'll have reviews of the
remainder of the discs from this set as we get their hands on them.
Now then... check back tonight for that new Trivia
Contest. Stay tuned...
(EARLY UPDATE - 5/22/01 - 1 PM PDT)
Rrruuuunnnnn, Forrest!! Yessir, today brings the official confirmation
of the news we told you about on Friday - Paramount's Forrest
Gump: Collector's Edition has been announced for August 28th.
here for the story via Daily Variety.
Looks like the second half of the year is going to be another expensive
time for DVD fans.
Also today, we're pleased to bring you our reviews of Warner's new Stanley
Kubrick Collection on DVD. We've got most of the discs in
hand (Warner's sending them out a few at a time) and we'll try to get as
many of them up today as possible. So let's start with our revised
reviews of Kubrick's
Space Odyssey and
Metal Jacket. I think most of you are going to be very pleased
with the quality of the new DVDs. We'll have them all available from our
review index, so be sure to check it throughout the day.
So... did everyone have a great weekend? I spent mine recovering from
the family visit, and also catching the season finales of The
X-Files, The Simpsons
and The Sopranos. Todd, however,
actually managed to get a little work done. So this afternoon, we're
pleased to bring you a trio of new DVD reviews from him. Todd's got a
look at Fox's new 2-disc
Away: Special Edition (street date 6/12), as well as USA's
(5/29). And we round things out today with a look at MGM's
The Man with the X-ray Eyes - a Roger Corman classic (due on
6/5)! We're going to be posting a new Trivia
Contest for tomorrow morning, and we've got lots more new DVD
reviews coming your way soon, including a look at the revised Stanley
(LATE UPDATE - 5/18/01 - 6 PM PDT)
Forget what we said about waiting until next week for announcements of
cool upcoming DVDs. We've just gotten word that Paramount will debut
their first official collector's edition DVD on August 28th... Forrest
Gump! The 2-disc set (no, I'm not kidding) will feature more
than 2 hours worth of bonus material, including an audio commentary by
director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey and production designer
Rick Carter, the behind-the-scenes documentary Through
the Eyes of Forrest Gump, plus four additional featurettes on
sound effects, production design, makeup and visual effects. Also
included will be two never-before-seen sequences, involving Martin
Luther King Jr. and ping pong with George Bush Sr., a photo gallery,
talent screen tests and two theatrical trailers. The film will be
presented in anamorphic widescreen with English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio,
and 2.0 Surround in English and French. Very cool. The details on this
release were received by many retailers today, and the official
announcement (with press release) is slated for next week from the
studio. And to get your weekend started off right, here's a look at the
DVD's cover artwork (click on the cover to see a larger version). Enjoy!
Okay... NOW you can have a great weekend! ;-)
(EARLY UPDATE -
5/18/01 - 3:30 PM PDT)
Sorry for the lack of an update yesterday. My family has been visiting
from North Dakota all this week, and yesterday was their last day in
town. You know how it is - gotta have priorities, right?
Since today is a rather slow day DVD-wise, I thought we'd give you a
rundown of some of the DVD related stories that we're following around
the Internet. So here goes...
First up, Disney has launched a new
Technical Support website where you can get questions answered,
post your feedback regarding the studio's DVD product and even get help
finding Easter eggs hidden on Disney DVDs (click
here for a sample page, featuring the studio's recent Dinosaur
DVD). Cudos to the studio for doing this - consumer interaction is the
key to promoting a good experience with the DVD format.
to this story over at Yahoo, Pueblo Film Licensing, which is the "successor-in-interest"
to the late producer Alexander Salkind, has filed a $20 million lawsuit
against Warner Bros. and DC Comics, arguing that the Superman
films have been, ''re-edited and altered [for DVD] in a manner that
would violate the Superman Picture Contracts and has done so unlawfully
using materials owned by plaintiff.'' Given that Salkind's the one who
took Superman 2 away from director
Richard Donner, as far as we're concerned, Pueblo can shove their
lawsuit where the sun don't shine...
Speaking of lawsuits, the Ford Motor Company is now suing
Corley for a matter unrelated to DeCSS. Corley, as you may know, is
currently embroiled in a suit filed by the MPAA on behalf of the film
studios for posting the DeCSS code as part of a news story, and for
linking to other sites distributing the code.
here for details on the suit via Yahoo and The
New York Times. Sheesh... when it rains, it pours...
For those of you dying to make your own DVD movies,
is debuting a desktop computer that records TV broadcasts (via a
built-in tuner) and includes a DVD-RW drive. The computer is positioned
to go after similar models from Apple.
In news from E3,
Xbox is set to debut on November 8th here in North America, with
early game support featuring titles licensed with Warner Bros.,
Electronic Arts, Universal, Sega and Capcom among others. Not to be
plans to launch their new GameCube system on November 5th, in an
effort to beat Microsoft to the punch and steal some of their thunder.
Neither system will initially feature DVD-Video playback support. I'm
laying odds on Xbox to take the first round...
And in other news, Adams Media Research projects that consumers will
spend $6.2 billion to purchase DVD software in 2001, representing just
about 50% of the $12.5 billion market for DVD and VHS sell-through.
here for more via Video Business.
Finally, thanks to the recent negotiations that averted the WGA strike,
screenwriters will now receive $5,000 when their a movie based on the
screenplay they've written is released on DVD (see
story here). We think it's about time. ;-)
Okay... that's enough for this afternoon. We'll be back with lots of
news, reviews and more on Monday. And watch for some cool upcoming DVD
announcements next week, if all goes well.
Have a great weekend and stay tuned...!
We've got another pair of DVD reviews for you today from Dan -
Original Kings of Comedy and MGM's
both currently available.
Also this afternoon, we've updated our mirror copy of
Official DVD FAQ to the most recent version (dated May
14th). Be patient while it loads - the document is nearly 500K in size.
But if you're looking to have questions about the DVD format answered,
it's well worth the wait.
Around the Net today, there's a
story over at Yahoo about Francis Ford Coppola's new director's
edit of Apocalypse Now. The story
is loaded with detail about the process of re-cutting the film (under
the supervision of Coppola and original editor Walter Murch) and what
the new film (which is now some 53 minutes longer) contains. This is the
new version that will find its way to DVD in the 3rd or 4th quarter from
Paramount, so if you love the film, be sure to check this story out.
also has word that U2's current tour is being videotaped for a
future DVD release (see the bottom of the article). I managed to snag a
floor ticket to see the band's recent performance in Anaheim,
California, and I can tell you first hand that the show was awesome. The
DVD should be very cool.
There's also an
editorial by Shelley Souza on the current MPAA vs. 2600 case over
And, of course, with the E3 electronic game show going on this week
here in L.A.,
a story up on CNN about the next-generation of video game consoles
(many of which have DVD capability) that will soon be vying for consumer
attention. Personally, I'm waiting for Microsoft's X-Box...
(LATE UPDATE -
5/15/01 - 1:30 PM PDT)
We've got another review for you today - Greg Suarez's look at
of the Vampire (street date May 29th).
Also today, Fox has officially announced the DVD release of the Die
Hard Trilogy, as well as Monkeybone,
on July 10th. Here's a look at some of the menu screens from the Die
Hard: 5-Star Edition and Monkeybone,
as well as the cover art for Monkeybone
and The Die Hard Trilogy boxed
And one last Fox note today -
studio has launched a new website dedicated to their new Marilyn
Monroe: Diamond Collection. You'll find all kinds of goodies
relating to the upcoming DVDs and the actress herself, so do check it
(EARLY UPDATE - 5/15/01 - 10:30 AM PDT)
We've got a very cool DVD review for you this morning from Todd -
Criterion's sparkling new edition of Akira Kurosawa's classic
Hidden Fortress. This is one of our favorite films here at
The Bits, so having it on DVD
(from the folks at Criterion no less) is a real treat. The disc comes
out on May 22nd - don't miss it!
Also today, we've got news that Criterion and The Sundance Channel are
teaming up on a cool new series to promote foreign films. Here's Todd to
For all you cinema buffs out there that haven't made the leap to DVD
yet, The Sundance Channel just partnered with one of our favorite DVD
producers, The Criterion Collection, for a TV show. Together, they'll
present landmark works of world cinema in the new series
Sundance Channel Presents Classic World
Cinema from The Criterion Collection. This special
thirteen-week series will launch Thursday, June 7th at 9:00 p.m. on the
network, with a different film airing every Thursday night. Each
selection is preceded by Sundance Channel's original program
Conversations in World Cinema,
which becomes a weekly series that same day at 8:30 p.m. Past guests
have included directors Liv Ullmann (Faithless),
Ang Lee (Ice Storm) and Ed Harris
The thirteen films airing as part of Classic
World Cinema were jointly selected by Sundance Channel and
The Criterion Collection, and represent a cross-section of essential
cinema, from revolutionary milestones and bona fide masterpieces to
internationally beloved hits and lesser-known titles by master
filmmakers. Spanning five decades of artistic daring and excellence,
each installment of Classic World Cinema
epitomizes film's power to delight, transport and inspire.
10 of the titles included in Sundance
Channel Presents Classic World Cinema from The Criterion Collection
are already on DVD, and 3 more are coming. They are, in chronological
Director Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura
(The Adventure), which will be available on DVD June 19th.
High and Low (Tengoku To Jigoku)
from Akira Kurosawa.
Mr. Hulot's Holiday (Les Vacances de Monsieur
Hulot) by director/co-writer and star Jacques Tati.
Andrei Tarkovsky's epic Andrei Rublev.
The ultra-tense road (and bridge) film Wages
of Fear (Le Salaire de la Peur) directed by Henri-Georges
Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries
(Smultronstallet) (which is not currently available on DVD,
but it looks to be coming towards the end of the year).
Knife in the Water (Noz w Wodzie)
by controversial filmmaker Roman Polanski (also not available as of yet,
but keep your fingers crossed that we see this film on DVD soon).
Artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau's first film Blood
of a Poet (Le Sang d'un Poete) (which is available in
Criterion's Cocteau box set).
The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet)
the deathly meditation by famed Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.
Cleo from 5 to 7 (Cleo de 5 a 7)
from Agnès Varda.
The beautiful and funny Nights of Cabiria
(Le Notti de Cabiria) by film god Federico Fellini.
Jean Renoir's wonderful Grand Illusion (La
And of course, the killer of the bunch... Kurosawa's ultimate film
experience, Seven Samurai (Shichi-Nin No
If you don't get Sundance, check with your local cable provider and get
them to give you a package. With fiber optics and all, it has to be
somewhere in your area.
Also check with www.sundancechannel.com
for schedules and the like. We feel it's important to support
programming like this, so tune if you can. Back to Bill...
Thanks, Todd. I remember my first exposure to great foreign films was
as a projectionist for the University of Wisconsin's film department
back in college. That was during my freshman year there. I got to see
many of them again which I actually went through the program myself. One
of the things it's impossible to leave UW - Madison's film program
without, is serious love of all things Kurosawa. That was also the first
place I saw Sergio Leone's amazing Once Upon
a Time in the West. Ahh... those were the days. Anyway,
definitely check out some of these classic films if you get The Sundance
Channel. And kudos to Sundance and Criterion for doing what they can to
expose more people to these great films.