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page updated: 2/13/02



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 1/9/02 - 12/7/01)


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1/9/02

Well... as predicted, the industry's begun crowing about those DVD numbers. And rightly so. Here's a bit of the press release Warner Home Video and the DVD Entertainment Group sent out this morning: "In 2001 consumers spent a record-breaking $16.8 billion buying and renting movies on video, up 21 percent over 2000, and more than twice what they spent on movie tickets ($8.1 billion). Consumers spent $4.6 billion on DVDs, 2.4 times more than last year, an increase that put DVD purchases ahead of VHS purchases for the first time despite an installed player base of 25 million DVD households versus a VCR installed player base of 96 million households. Consumer spending on DVD purchases and rental combined were $6 billion, 2.4 times more than in 2000.

Strong DVD growth also placed home video revenues at nearly three times video game sales ($6.4 billion) and more than music CDs ($11.2 billion) and books ($16.5 billion). The aggregate sales of $16.8 billion for total video sales include $10.9 billion in new release revenues and $5.9 billion in library release revenue.

According to figures compiled by Ernst & Young on behalf of the DVD Entertainment Group, approximately 138 million DVD movies and music video titles shipped in the fourth quarter of 2001, 1.8 times more than the same quarter last year. And, more than 364 million units were shipped in 2001 alone bringing the total number of units shipped since launch to 675 million."


And that's not all. DreamWorks has announced that their Shrek, which is the favorite to win the Academy's new Best Animated Feature Film category this year, has become the biggest selling DVD of all time, with more than 7.9 million copies of the 2-disc set sold to date. Just to give you an idea of the kind of money we're talking about here, according to DreamWorks, that translates to some $420 million in retail revenue for the studio (including both VHS and DVD). Now you begin to understand why this is such an important business for the Hollywood studios.

In another bit of Back to the Future news, the BTTF.com website is reporting that Australian copies of Jurassic Park 3 on DVD include a brief trailer for the Summer 2002 release of the Back to the Future Trilogy on disc. So I'd say it's all but official.

A couple more upcoming DVD announcements in case you haven't heard. Look for Soul Survivors: The Killer Cut from Artisan on 2/26. Warner's Don't Say a Word arrives on 2/19. And New Line's Bones: Platinum Series will street on 2/26.

Looks like MSNBC's finally picked up that story about DVD extras going the way of the dodo due to star greed. I just have one question though... who the hell is Dave Dadekian? That's some kind of hard-hitting journalism that quotes "my friend Dave" as a source. Guess it must have been a slow news day. No offense to Dave, of course. ;-)

One more note this morning. As a follow-up to our post from yesterday, the official Star Trek website has revealed that the Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs will officially be announced by the studio on January 11th.

Stay tuned...

1/8/02

Here's something interesting today. Although it has yet to be officially announced here in the States, Amazon.co.uk has posted images of the final packaging for the Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs. Each season will contain multiple discs, packaged in a foldout case similar to the one Fox uses for The X-Files. That, in turn, will be enclosed in a prop-like plastic outer case (one for each season - see the shot below of all seven seasons). Look for an official announcement soon, with a release date for the first season expected in March.

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season One (outer case)

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season One (inner case - exploded view)

Star Trek: The Next Generation (outer case - all 7 seasons)

Stay tuned...

1/7/02

The Consumer Electronics Show begins tomorrow, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for interesting DVD-related announcements (visit the official site, Yahoo's DVD news and CNet's in depth CES coverage). Since VSDA was scrapped this year (attendance was dropping, though it's been held concurrent with CES the last few years) we decided to pass on this year's show. But there's sure to be news on DVD-R, DVD-RW and the thus far D.O.A. DVD-Audio format, including announcements of more consumer DVD-Video players with recording options. So keep your ears to the ground and your eyes peeled.

In the meantime, HBO has announced that Oz: The Complete First Season will arrive on DVD on March 19th. The three-disc set will include all eight episodes, plus audio commentaries, deleted scenes, interviews with the cast and creator and a music video. SRP is $64.98.

Here's some more upcoming titles you may or may not have heard about. Buena Vista's set The Iron Monkey and The Tall Guy for release on March 26th. Columbia TriStar has added Barabbas and The Replacement Killers: Special Edition to their March 5th slate, with Mr. Sardonicus, The Order and Straight-Jacket following on March 12th. Good Times has announced Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 for February 26th. MGM's also announced more titles including 1969, The Aviator, Best Men, Bio-Dome, Breaking In, Cadillac Man, Coca-Cola Kid, Cuba, Coming Home, Deceiver, Delirious, Desperate Hours, Extremities, Full Moon in Blue Water, Hidden Agenda, The January Man, Joe, Lenny, Nomads, Triumph of the Spirit and Wild Orchid (all for February 12th). New Line has set Life as a House for March 12th. And Sexy Beast is due from 20th Century Fox on March 12th as well.

In other news, DVD rentailers scored big in 2001, with DVD rentals raking in more than $8.4 billion during the year according to the Video Software Dealers Association. I'd expect we'll be seeing a lot more big year-end numbers being quoted this week for the DVD format.

One other thing you might like this morning - we've got a look at the cover artwork for MGM's Bull Durham: Special Edition, which we mentioned Saturday as streeting on April 2nd. Here you go...

MGM's Bull Durham: Special Edition

Stay tuned...

1/5/02

We've just announced the winners of the last Trivia Contest for 2001, so be sure to check them out if you're one of the 3,792 people who entered. Also today, we've got a whole mess of cool upcoming DVD announcements.

First of all, MGM is planning on releasing a new The Usual Suspects: Special Edition on April 2nd (SRP $24.98). The disc will include anamorphic widescreen video (mastered from a high definition transfer), three behind-the-scenes featurettes (Round-Up: Deposing the Usual Suspects, Keyser Sose: Lie or Legend and Heisting Cannes with The Usual Suspects), deleted scenes, a gag reel with introduction by director Bryan Singer, audio commentary with Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie, a second commentary with composer and editor John Ottman, trailers, TV spots and original advertising materials.

That's not all MGM's got in their bag of tricks. On April 2nd, the studio will also release their Bull Durham: Special Edition (SRP $24.98). The disc will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, a brand-new documentary on the making of the film with new interviews with the cast, a newly recorded audio commentary with Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins, a second audio commentary with director Ron Shelton, a photo gallery, trailers and TV spots and more. You'll also be happy to learn that MGM is working on a Dances with Wolves: Special Edition, which is soon to be announced.

Artisan Entertainment has just released Open Your Eyes, the Spanish film by director Alejandro Amenábar (who also directed The Others) upon which Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky was based. The DVD features anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio (SRP $14.98). I've gotta believe it's a better film than the muddled and misleading remake, which Todd and I really disliked. Read Owen Gleiberman's review over at EW - he absolutely nails it (though beware of spoilers).

Now here's a really good flick. Columbia TriStar's just officially announced their Riding in Cars with Boys: Special Edition for release on March 19th. The disc will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, the HBO "making of" special, audio commentary by Drew Barrymore, several "behind-the-scenes" featurettes (including Drew's Trailer Tour, Bev and Ray's House: Recreating Reality, The Cars and Beverly and Jason: Sons and Lovers) theatrical trailers and more. SRP will be $27.96.

And Warner Bros has announced two new DVDs: Training Day and The Heist. Training Day arrives on March 19th and will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, additional scenes and an alternate ending, feature-length commentary by director Antoine Fuqua, a behind-the-scenes documentary, two music videos (Nelly's #1 and Pharoahe Monch's Got You) and trailers. SRP is $26.98. And The Heist will arrive on March 12th. Look for anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, trailers and more (SRP $24.98).

Also this morning, I've updated my review of Tombstone to include new information, so you might want to check that out (see the notes at the end of the review).

And in the funny but true category, there are already guys standing in line to see the next Star Wars movie (thanks for the link, Matt!). Hey... I can't wait for the flick either, but FIVE MONTHS seems a little excessive. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. Somebody PLEASE tell me there isn't already a line for Episode III...

Stay tuned!

(EVEN LATER UPDATE - 1/4/02 - 3:30 PM PST)

One last update for you this afternoon. We've got Paramount's February release schedule, plus a teaser of their March DVD schedule as well. Here's February at a glance... The Bad News Bears, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (all 2/12), Hot Pursuit, Intersection and Hardball (all 2/19).

Now then, some updates to the January schedule. Rat Race is now expected on 1/29 (and not 1/22 as originally slated). Also WWF Tough Enough: The First Season and Behind WWF Tough Enough have been moved out of January to March 12th.

And here's some highlights of Paramount's March slate... Zoolander (3/12), SpongeBob Squarepants (3/12), Lassie (3/12), Andre (3/12), The Education of Little Tree (3/12), Focus (TBA), Our Lady of Assassins (TBA) and Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season One (3/19).

Now then... have a great weekend!

(LATER UPDATE - 1/4/02 - 2:30 PM PST)

We'll be back with that review this afternoon, but I wanted to jump in here with a Final Countdown update. We have no idea whether the disc will be available in stores on January 15th, but you can indeed pre-order it directly from Pacific Family Entertainment at the following number: 1-800-804-8009. The DVD is $19.95, plus $4.50 for shipping (UPS Ground). I'm told the disc will be shipped on or about the 15th.

Now then... we promised a review, didn't we? Well... how about two? Here's my look at Buena Vista's new Tombstone: Director's Cut - Vista Series (which streets on January 15th) and Greg's take on Columbia TriStar's recent Bram Stoker's Dracula (SuperBit) disc. Enjoy!

We've also posted Todd's List of 10 DVDs Coming Next Week to the Doogan's Views section, just FYI.

And don't forget that tonight's your last chance to enter the Trivia Contest. You've got until 7 PM PST, and we'll post the winners on Saturday.

Have a great weekend!

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/4/02 - 12:01 AM PST)

Things are getting a little busy in The Rumor Mill these days. This morning, we've got a report on The Lion King possibly being bumped up in the Platinum DVD release schedule. Be sure to check that out.

Also this morning, a bit on another long awaited title. We've been trying to learn more from Pacific Family Entertainment about their Final Countdown DVD, which is reportedly set to street on January 15th (according to their own e-mails). It may still arrive on that date, but retailers have yet to receive pre-order information for the title. At this point, your guess is as good as ours as to when it will be in stores. We'll post here if we learn anything more.

Stay tuned...

1/3/02

This afternoon, we've got an update for you on those Titanic: SE DVD rumors in The Rumor Mill. Seems director James Cameron did indeed return to the famous shipwreck for a new project he's working on. We've also got more details on Lord of the Rings.

In other news today, we wondered yesterday just how many DVD titles have been released with separate widescreen and full frame releases. Bits reader Steven Gardener (of Image Entertainment) has informed us that there are 19 such releases currently available in stores (although there have been others previously). The list is as follows (thanks, Steve):

102 Dalmatians, Airport, American Pie 2 (R Rated), American Pie 2 (Unrated), Cats and Dogs, Charlotte's Web, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park 3, Jurassic Park Collection, Lost World: Jurassic Park, Mummy Returns, Princess Diaries, Remember the Titans, Santa Claus: The Movie, Silence of the Lambs, Stuart Little and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Also this afternoon, we've got instructions for you on how to exchange your defective Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Special Edition DVDs for fixed replacements from Columbia TriStar (some people are reporting that the subtitles spontaneously turn on at various points in the film on certain models of DVD player, whether the subtitles have been selected or not). Send your defective discs to the following address (make sure you include your return address):

CTHE
ATTN: Client Operations
10202 W. Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232


Replacements will be shipped as soon as they're available. Thanks to Bits reader James McKane for that.

Around the Net today, tech analysts are saying that DVD burners will be hot items in the year to come (read that story here). There's also a story on the current IMAX re-release of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which very briefly mentions the eventual DVD release (this year's Platinum title from the studio, coming in November). And fans of musician Sarah McLachlan will be happy to learn that the Lilith on Top documentary (now in theaters - which goes behind the scenes on McLachlan's Lilith Fair music festival) will eventually be released on DVD with additional musical numbers (street date TBD).

Don't forget that tomorrow's your last day to enter the Trivia Contest. We're giving away tons of great DVDs, including a signed Almost Famous Untitled, so get your entries in quick.

That's it for today. Tomorrow we'll be back with my review of a disc I've been waiting for a very long time: Buena Vista's Tombstone: Director's Cut - Vista Series. See you then...!

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/2/02 - 5 PM PST)

We've just posted Brad Pilcher's review of a recent NBC miniseries, released last month on DVD by Warner Bros - Jon Avnet's Uprising. I've watched the disc myself. The quality is surprising for a made-for-TV production on DVD, and it's definitely worth a look.

Enjoy the review and we'll see you tomorrow!

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/2/02 - 11:30 AM PST)

Welcome back, everyone! And welcome to 'ought two. Gee... doesn't feel much different. Still no flying cars. In fact, feels suspiciously like a Wednesday morning. Oh well. What can you do?

We're gearing up for the new year here at The Bits, and we got lots of fun plans in the works. We're doing some housekeeping around the site today, and we'll be back later with the first review of 2002.

In the meantime, we've had a look at that Blockbuster widescreen petition, which now boasts more than 11,000 signatures. Let's keep 'em coming. Blockbuster, in new responses to their customers' complaints, are blaming the Hollywood studios for their choice of full frame over widescreen. Their argument, in effect, is that it's the studios' fault for not including both formats on the same disc. A majority of their customers prefer full frame, so if it's a choice between two discs, they're always going to pick the full frame version. But my question is, just how many discs are we talking about? How many titles are there that feature widescreen on one disc and full frame on the other? Not that many. Seems to me, we're talking about a handful of titles each quarter (most of them from Universal). So how hard could it be to make sure you've got a few widescreen copies of each disc on hand to please customers that prefer the original aspect ratio? Not that hard at all.

Hey... if you guys at Blockbuster want to contact me and explain your position, go for it. In the meantime, I find your replies to your customers' inquiries a little hard to swallow. And so do your customers.

Also this morning, we've got word that director James Cameron may finally have a Titanic: Special Edition on his radar screens. You'll find that in our first Rumor Mill post of 2002, along with reports on what promise to be two of the biggest DVD releases of the new year.

Back with that review soon...

12/28/01

We've got a few more pieces of upcoming DVD cover artwork for you today, for titles you're probably already looking forward to. So here's a look at Buena Vista's Bubble Boy (1/15), Columbia TriStar's Used Cars (2/5), Universal's American Pie 2: Collector's Series (unrated/widescreen) (1/15) and Dimension's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: Collector's Series (2/26).

American Pie 2: Collector's Edition (unrated widescreen)Used Cars

Bubble BoyJay and Silent Bob Strike Back: Collector's Series

Around the Net today, Yahoo's got a couple of interesting wire stories. First up, there's an AP story on how DVD Video recorders compare to PC DVD-R drives. Next, Reuters has a story on Universal Pictures Germany acquiring the German distribution rights to Senator Entertainment AG's library of films, including The Others and America's Sweethearts. In other news, you'll be happy to learn that the average price of a DVD player dropped from $202 in 2000 to $158.88 this year. Also down were a whole host of other consumer electronics goods (see story). In a story that should make you music lovers happy, it seems that the music industry is slashing CD prices across the board in an effort to discourage online piracy ('bout time). And there's a good story about the competition between DreamWorks and Disney to nab next year's first ever Animated Feature Film Oscar.

Finally, we've gotten word that Columbia TriStar plans to release a trio of Jackie Chan films on DVD on March 12th. These include To Kill with Intrigue, New Fist of Fury and Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin. Each disc will carry an SLP of $19.95. All will be in widescreen, with at least To Kill with Intrigue in anamorphic widescreen. Audio will be English and Cantonese Dolby Digital mono, with subtitles in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Well... that about does it for 2001. We'll be off Monday and Tuesday with the rest of you, and we'll return on Wednesday, January 2nd for a whole new year's worth of DVD coverage Digital Bits style. So from all of us here, please have a very happy and safe New Year's celebration and we'll see you all in 2002!

12/27/01

So did everyone have a good holiday? We're back today with some cool new upcoming DVD title information. But first, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers to include the 353,501 players that shipped to dealers in the first week of December (ending 12/7). All charts have been updated accordingly.

Now then... we've got word of a whole slew of Batman: The Animated Series DVDs coming on April 23, 2002. There's Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub Zero, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Original Cut), The Batman/Superman Movie, Batman: The Animated Series - The Legend Begins and Justice League. Here's a look at some of the cover art and menu screens for a few of them...

Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub ZeroThe Batman/Superman Movie

Batman: The Animated Series: The Legend Begins (main menu)

Justice League (main menu)

Now then... other good upcoming titles from Warner include Hearts in Atlantis (February 12th), Attack of the 50ft Woman (1993), Babe Ruth, Barcelona, Exit to Eden, Doctor Who: The Caves of the Androzani, Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks, House Arrest, Joe Versus the Volcano, National Lampoon's European Vacation, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, Victor/Victoria and Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio? (all April 2nd) and Calamity Jane (2002) and The Harvey Girls (both April 30th). Newly announced Columbia TriStar upcoming DVDs include Funny Lady (2/5), Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling and Nothing in Common (2/19), Barabbas and The Replacement Killers: Special Edition (3/5), Metropolis (anime - 3/12) and Riding in Cars with Boys: Special Edition (3/19). Coming from Buena Vista are The Iron Monkey and Mexico City (3/12) and Corky Romano (5/14). And upcoming Universal titles include The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (1/29), Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2/5), Balto and Balto 2: Wolf Quest (2/19), The Long Run and The Musketeer (2/26), The Last Castle (3/5) and K-Pax (3/26).

Stay tuned...

12/22/01

This is a last quick update before the holiday to let you all know that we've just kicked off the very last Trivia Contest for 2001. You'll get the chance to win a copy of DreamWorks' Almost Famous: Untitled signed by actor Jason Lee and lots more! Best of all, entering couldn't be any easier and you've got until Friday, January 4th to do so. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

12/21/01

Well... it's that time again, folks! With the Christmas holiday almost here, we've got another of our annual Digital Holiday Cards for you. Think of it as just a little reminder to all you studio folk out there of some of the work left to be done in the New Year!

Now then, we've just posted Todd's last column for 2001 in the Doogan's Views section, featuring reviews of Fox's Kiss of the Dragon (street date 1/22) and Columbia TriStar's Casualties of War (available now). We've also announced the winners of our Trivia Contest. And we'll be back late this evening to kick off one last contest to take us through the holidays.

Some announcements today - A&E will begin releasing the second season of Space: 1999 on 2/26 (with Volumes 5 & 6). Universal will release K-Pax, Slap Shot and Slap Shot 2 on 3/26. New Line's finally delivering Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me on 2/26 along with Bones. And Warner's Hearts in Atlantis arrives on 2/12, with 13 Ghosts following on 2/26.

By the way, we've spoken to Paramount this morning, and there's nothing solid to report about that Raiders of the Lost Ark DVD rumor that's been floating around. Apparently, a European DVD magazine claimed that Paramount's confirmed it will be released for the holidays next year. Official word is that there's talk about finally releasing the film to DVD, but nothing has been decided upon. The holidays next year would certainly make sense, but that's a long ways off yet. Just FYI.

In other news today, if you're using Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system, you definitely need to be aware of an important security flaw that's been discovered in the program. Microsoft has already made a fix available for free on their website, so download it immediately if you're affected by this.

One last bit of business this afternoon. Last weekend, I had the chance to play Santa at a local PETsMART store, posing for holiday pictures with animals to help raise money for a local animal adoption charity. So Sarah thought you might get a kick out of this picture of us. Yep... that IS me in the red suit (thanks for the pix, Jim!)...

Santa and Sarah

Lest Todd think he can escape 2001 cleanly, here's Doogan enjoying a little fan adoration at last year's VSDA...

Todd and fan in Vegas

That's enough shenanigans for one day, I'd say. ;-)

We've decided to make like the reformed Scrooge and give our staff here at The Bits a week off for the holidays. I'll be back with a few things next Thursday, December 27th. So until then, from all of us here at The Digital Bits, a very safe and happy holiday! Peace.

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/19/01 - 12:15 PM PST)

Okay, I'm recovered from my adventure last night just in time to post Todd's new column in the Doogan's Views section. This time around, he reviews Fox's Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season and Moulin Rouge: Special Edition, along with Cult DVD's Tunnel Vision. As far as street dates, Buffy's due on January 15th. Moulin Rouge and Tunnel Vision are already available. Plus, Todd's got a good rant on that issue of Hollywood talent running up their prices for participating in DVD special editions. I think it puts a good perspective on things.

We've gotten word that Columbia TriStar will release Jet Li's The One: Special Edition on DVD on March 5th. The disc will include anamorphic widescreen and full frame video options, audio in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, subtitles in English, French, Chinese, Korean and Thai, an audio commentary with the director and writer, "making-of" featurettes (Jet Li is the One, Multiverses and Create the One), special effects featurettes (About-Face and The Many Faces of Jet Li), an animatic comparison for "RE-Shoot", theatrical trailers and filmographies.

And just FYI, if you're a fan of Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrman, you'll be happy to learn that he's currently hard at work on DVD special editions of his earlier films, Strictly Ballroom and Romeo+Juliet, for a special boxed set called Red Curtain Trilogy that will come out from Fox in March.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/19/01 - 4 AM PST)

So... it's 4 AM PST and I've just gotten back from seeing The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Simply put, it rocks. The images are spellbinding, the story is every bit as enchanting as I remember it and the action is swift and riveting. Fear not if you've never read the books - this is a Ring that anyone can thoroughly enjoy. More importantly, long time fans should be pleased as well. It's a cinematic achievement... and it's going to be a very long twelve month wait for The Two Towers! Go forth and enjoy as soon as you can get tickets.

Now then... I'm off to sleep (or try to anyway, with vision of orcs dancing in my head). Back later... ;-)

(LATE UPDATE - 12/18/01 - 2:45 PM PST)

We've just kicked off a VERY quick, 2-day Trivia Contest, which will give 5 lucky winners a chance to take home a copy of HBO's new The Sopranos: The Complete Second Season on DVD. It's an easy contest if you're a fan, but you've got to get your entries in quick!

We've also posted a few new reviews of some classic Holiday-themed titles on DVD, namely Warner's The Year Without a Santa Claus, Sony Wonder's Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Disney's Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. Enjoy!

And finally this afternoon, we've got word that the complete first season of HBO's acclaimed TV series Oz will be arriving on DVD next year.

Now then... it's off to see The Lord of the Rings. See you back here tomorrow!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/18/01 - 11:30 AM PST)

Just a quick reminder to get things started today - be sure to sign the Blockbuster widescreen petition if you haven't already. It's already up to over 7,000 signatures, so keep 'em coming. With any luck, they'll listen. But most people have been getting this standard e-mail response from the rentailer:

"The movie studios determine whether or not to release their DVDs in standard (full-screen) or wide-screen versions. It is our preference, and the preference of our customers that because of the versatility and storage capacity of DVD technology, DVDs include both versions on one disc. In the past, when the studios have chosen to release separate standard and wide-screen version DVDs, it has caused confusion amongst our customers. To minimize our customer dissatisfaction, we have chosen to carry only one version of a title on DVD, and our research has shown that more customers prefer the standard than the wide-screen version. We take your comments and suggestions as a welcome show of interest and loyalty. We are forwarding your comments to the appropriate department for their review."

Well Blockbuster... maybe it's time to try to end that confusion by educating your customers? Thanks to about a hundred readers who sent that in.

In other news today, we've got a host of new title announcements. Artisan has set Soul Survivors for release on 2/26. Capitol EMI has He Touched Me: The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley on 1/8. Central Park Media is bowing Labyrinth of Flames: Tales of a Wannabe Samurai on 2/12. Columbia TriStar will release Forbidden Sins/ Human Desires on 2/19 and Haiku Tunnel on 2/26. Criterion has also just announced a slew of new titles, including Fireman's Ball, Loves of a Blonde and Wild Strawberries all on 2/12, Confessions of Robert Crumb and Jackson Pollock: Love and Death on Long Island on 2/19 and In the Mood for Love on 2/26. You already know about DreamWorks' A.I.: Artificial Intelligence on 3/5, so know also that it will be available in dual full frame and widescreen versions (guess that means you won't be able to find the widescreen at Blockbuster). Lion's Gate is releasing Dead in the Water on 2/12 and Lush on 2/26. Trimark has set Nightmaster for 2/5 and Sonic the Hedgehog: Super Sonic and Super Mario Brothers: Mario's Greatest Movie Moments for 2/26. Pioneer will release Chuck Berry: Rock and Roll, George Clinton: Parliment, James Brown: Body Heat, John Lennon: Sweet Toronto, Little Richard: Keep on Rockin', Muddy Waters: Chicago Blues, Otis Redding: Remembering, Pointer Sisters: All Night, Story of Jerry Lee Lewis and Woodstock Jazz Festival, all on 1/22. Spartan will bow Heart and Extreme Days: Special Edition on 1/29. Universal's hitting the road in March with College Swing/Big Broad of 1938, Ghost Breakers, My Favorite Blonde/Star Spangled Rhythm, Paleface, Road to Morocco, Road to Singapore, Road to Utopia and Road to Zanzibar, all on 3/5. Universal Music will deliver Def Leppard: Hysteria and Def Leppard: Visualize on 1/29. Warner's set Passport to Paris and Winning London for 2/12. And finally Warner/National Geographic will release National Geographic: Beyond the Movie - Lord of the Rings on 2/5.

We'll be back to kick off the next Trivia Contest later this afternoon, so stay tuned...

12/17/01

Boy... is anyone else looking forward to this week as much as I am? We're finally going to get a look at The Lord of the Rings! I've already got tickets to a 12:01 AM show on Wednesday morning to see the film with a group of friends. Feel like a kid again. ;-)

A couple of things for you this morning. First of all, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers with the complete weekly sales totals from November. And there's good news - the DVD format is officially 25 million players strong! Be sure to check out the listing above, as well as the full chart, for all the details.

Also this morning, we've got a look at the DVD menus for a pair of upcoming 20th Century Fox DVDs - Kiss of the Dragon (1/22) and Don't Say a Word (2/19).

Kiss of the Dragon

Don't Say a Word

Finally this morning, if you get Daily Variety, be sure to check out today's issue for an interesting story on the soaring costs of producing DVD special editions. It seems certain that A-list talent (Arnold Schwarzenegger anyone?) and the various guilds are starting to demand big bucks to participate in things like audio commentaries. Greedy bastards always seem to do their best to ruin a good thing, don't they? Hollywood, like Major League Baseball, is sorely in need of a salary cap, in my humble opinion...

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 12/14/01 - 8:15 PM PST)

We've just posted Todd's List of 10 DVDs Coming Next Week in the Doogan's Views section, along with his new column featuring reviews of Artisan's Twin Peaks: The First Season - Special Edition and Columbia TriStar's Ghosts of Mars: Special Edition. Enjoy!

And we've also just posted the list of winners of our last two Trivia Contests. Congratulations to everyone. ;-)

Have a great weekend!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/14/01 - 10 AM PST)

Wow - we've been getting bombarded by e-mail from readers, many of whom have never written before, who are angered by Blockbuster's lack of widescreen support in their rental stores. Several have even humorously pointed out that Blockbuster's recent TV adds for Jurassic Park III show both widescreen clips from the film and the widescreen DVD cover... which isn't available for rental in their stores. We've also gotten dozens of e-mails from actual Blockbuster employees who are frustrated by their employer. Many of them say that they also get complaints from customers about widescreen DVDs (the old "why are these black bars there?" question), and feel that their company is doing a disservice to customers by not attempting to educate people about the differences between widescreen and full frame. We couldn't agree more. In lieu of Blockbuster doing anything at all, feel free to point people to our anamorphic guide if you think it might help. The main points we want to make are these...

1) Blockbuster should make an effort to educate people on the differences between widescreen and full frame. Most people have no idea what they're missing with full frame, assuming in error that when the picture fills their TV, they're getting everything. Let customers make an informed choice. For a company that makes its money by showing people movies, it should have more respect for film.

2) No one is saying that Blockbuster should stop carrying full frame. We simply believe that they should try to service both customers - the ones who want widescreen and the rest who want full frame.

To make sure Blockbuster gets this message, sign the Blockbuster widescreen petition ASAP and get everyone you know to do the same. Spread the word!

Meanwhile, we wanted to remind all of you that director Brett Ratner will be signing copies of Rush Hour 2 on DVD at Dave's Video - The Laser Place here in L.A. tomorrow afternoon (Sat. 12/15 from 1-3 PM PST). As always, you can get two items signed, one of which must be a copy of the DVD purchased at Dave's. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to a charity of Ratner's choice. Dave's Video is located at 12144 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, CA.

And around the Net today... be sure to check out the new Spiderman trailer that just went live last night. Very cool.

And TheOneRing.net just posted Lord of the Rings DVD comments by New Line's Rolf Mittweg, president for worldwide distribution and marketing. He says New Line plans to release the DVD version of The Fellowship of the Ring in August, 2002, featuring a full-fledged trailer for the next installment, The Two Towers.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 12/13/01 - 6 PM PST)

We promised you a special feature, didn't we? Well, here you go. We're very pleased this afternoon to give you an interview with Highlander producer Bill Panzer on the upcoming DVD release of the complete first season of the TV series. Bill's been working hard on the discs, along with the DVD staff at CineSite, and they're just about to ship now. I think you fans of the show will enjoy our discussion. Bill also talks about the future of the Highlander franchise, so don't miss it!

In DVD news, Universal has just announced the DVD release of The Musketeer for February 26th. SRP for the DVD is $26.98.

We've also posted our review of MGM's forthcoming The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Special Edition (street date: January 1st). It isn't a perfect special edition, but you fans of the film are going to love it.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/13/01 - 10:30 AM PST)

Well, folks... we've got another battle to fight in the widescreen wars, and this time it's Blockbuster lined up on the other side of the battlefield. We've been hearing from tons of readers who say they've tried to rent copies of The Mummy Returns, Cats & Dogs, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Jurassic Park III on DVD from the giant. When when they do, they're surprised to find NO copies of the widescreen version of the films on store shelves. It seems that when there's two versions of the disc available, Blockbuster only stocks the pan & scan version. When people complain to the company, they're basically given the brush off. One reader had this to say this morning: "When I asked the clerk when the widescreen (16x9) copies would be available, he said probably never." Another reader tried the customer service number, and got this response: "We don't decide what goes on our shelves. Only the studios decide that." Which is complete bullshit. Blockbuster is a 1000lb gorilla in the industry and it does plenty of term dictating to the Hollywood studios. And we think it's time that someone took them to task for this widescreen thing. At the very least, the retailer should stock both versions of a disc. Clearly, they're not serving the needs of an important and vocal portion of their customers. So here's what you can do:

1) Call their customer service hotline and complain - 972-683-5959

2) E-mail their customer service people at this link and do the same

3) Phone and write to their world headquarters to complain at this address: Blockbuster Inc. 1201 Elm Street Dallas, Texas 75270 - 214-854-3000

4) An online petition's been started to show Blockbuster just how many people they're pissing off - sign it, have your family and friends sign it and link to it from your websites.

5) Try another video retailer in your area.

We've also created a set of graphic logos you can use if you like (link to the online petition). Wouldn't you know it? Their own corporate logo isn't full frame friendly!

Try WidescreenTry WidescreenTry Widescreen

This widescreen vs. pan & scan thing is only going to get worse if we let companies like Blockbuster have their way. It's easy to imagine the studios deciding to support only full frame if stores and rental giants negatively skew widescreen sales numbers by not stocking widescreen copies of DVDs. Some believe it's already happening. So let Blockbuster know how you feel on this issue and tell your friends to do the same. It's time they get the message.

Back soon...

(LATER UPDATE - 12/12/01 - 10:30 PM PST)

Slight schedule reshuffling. We've got two new DVD reviews for you this evening: Paramount's What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Pioneer's Queen: We Will Rock You. I'll have Buckaroo Banzai up in the morning... thanks for being patient. And we're just dotting the "I"s and crossing the "T"s on our new special feature story, so look for that early tomorrow as well.

In the news today (aside from the A.I. announcement earlier), Microsoft has just unveiled the latest version of its Windows Media software, and DVD player chip manufacturers say they'll support the technology in systems to be shipped next year. Code-named "Corona", the codec can play streaming video with 5.1 audio (96/24) over a broadband Internet connection. It also supports the playback of high-definition/1280p video at 24 frames per second. The idea, we assume, is that you could eventually have a "networked" DVD player that can not only play standard discs, but video-on-demand content as well. Interesting...

See you tomorrow!

(LATE UPDATE - 12/12/01 - 12:30 PM PST)

Thought you might like to hear this right away. DreamWorks has just officially announced the DVD release of Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence for March 5th. The 2-disc special edition release will carry an MAP of $22.95, and will feature the film in anamorphic widescreen video, with audio in DTS 5.1, along with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Extras will include a documentary detailing how the vision of A.I. Artificial Intelligence was brought to the screen, a rare look at the production design from the original conceptual drawings to the building of the sets, interviews with Steven Spielberg, Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law, behind-the-scenes featurettes on the design, lighting and costumes for the film, an in-depth look at the development and creation of the robots including a behind-the-scenes visit to Stan Winston Studios, a look at the creation of various special effects on the set with effects supervisor Michael Lantieri, interviews with Dennis Muren and Scott Farrar of Industrial Light & Magic special effects group about the seamless blending of animation and live action, a visit to Skywalker Sound with sound designer Gary Rydstrom, a conversation with composer John Williams about scoring the film and his collaboration with Steven Spielberg, storyboard sequences, production drawings, a photo gallery and theatrical trailers. Here's a look at the cover art...

A.I. Artificial Intelligence: Special Edition

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/12/01 - 10:15 AM PST)

This is just the first post of several today. But we wanted to jump in early this morning, because a lot of you have been asking how the Jurassic Park III bonus disc offer works. That's the disc that comes in the new Jurassic Park boxed set of all the movies. But you don't have to buy the box to get the disc if you already have the first two movies on DVD. You do, however, have to buy Jurassic Park III on DVD before March 31st of next year. Inside the case, you'll find a mail-in offer form for the disc. Fill it out and send it to the address indicated, along with your receipt for the Jurassic Park III DVD and a check or money order for $6.95 to cover shipping and handling. Your mailing MUST BE POSTMARKED BEFORE APRIL 15TH 2002 to make sure you get the disc. And there you go.

Back soon...!

12/11/01

Lest anyone think we're slacking off around here, know that both Todd and I are working on a number of new DVD reviews today. We'll start posting them tomorrow, including my look at MGM's forthcoming The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension: Special Edition. We've also got a new special feature story that we expect to post sometime tomorrow.

In the meantime, we've got two things we wanted to share with you this afternoon. First of all, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers to include the fourth week of November (ending 11/23). Some 349,710 players were shipped to retailers during the week, taking the total for November to 1,781,048 units. With one last week to go in the month, I'd be surprised if the total doesn't top 2 million. All charts have been updated accordingly.

Also today, Bits reader David H. Pierce forwarded us a couple of links that I think are very valuable to all readers. The first is a link to Joe Clark's Media Access website, which features an excellent reference work on DVD Accessibility (meaning how accessible DVD content is to the sight/hearing impaired). The second link is to Gary Robson's Closed Captioning FAQ, which will explain what captions are, how they're different from subtitles and how they work. We encourage everyone to check both links out (particularly you studio people), as this is a very important issue for many people.

Okay... we're back to work. A quick Happy Hanukkah to those of you who celebrate it! See you tomorrow with some new reviews...

12/10/01

Boy... people sure seem to get a kick out of the Bee Man story. Go figure. Anyway, as of this morning, we officially have no more bees. And that's good, because we do have some great Criterion DVD news.

In March, Criterion is expected to release Federico Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits and David Gordon Green's George Washington. Juliet of the Spirits should include anamorphic widescreen video (1.85:1), Italian Dolby Digital mono audio, optional and newly translated English subtitles and a theatrical trailer. George Washington should also include anamorphic widescreen video (2.35:1) along with English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, audio commentary (by director David Gordon Green, cinematographer Tim Orr and actor Paul Schneider), a deleted scene with commentary, the original theatrical trailer, David Gordon Green's short films (Pleasant Grove with commentary and Physical Pinball), a Charlie Rose interview with David Gordon Green, new video interviews with the cast and Clu Gulager's 1969 short film A Day with the Boys. And we've saved our favorite until last - Criterion is also planning to release Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon in the 1st Qtr. The disc is expected to include a new high-definition transfer of the full frame (1.33:1) image, Dolby Digital mono audio in Japanese (with newly translated English subtitles) and dubbed English, audio commentary by Japanese film historian Donald Richie, a video introduction by Robert Altman, excerpts from The World of Kazuo Miyagawa (a documentary film about Rashomon's cinematographer), reprints of the Rashomon source stories (Ryunosuke Akutagawa's In a Grove and Rashomon), Akira Kurosawa on Rashomon (a reprinted excerpt from his book Something Like an Autobiography) and the theatrical trailer. Very cool!

Also this morning, there's word that Buena Vista's Pearl Harbor has sold more than 3.7 million copies on DVD in its first week, making it the new one week record holder for the format. Just wait until Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings hit DVD...

And CNN's got a good story on the trend to put complete seasons of TV product on DVD, featuring interviews with several studio reps. Worth a look.

Stay tuned...

12/8/01

Just had to share this with you. Yes, Virginia... there really is a Bee Man.

The Bee Man commeth...

What... you were expecting a yellow suit with black stripes? Have a great weekend! ;-)

(LATE UPDATE - 12/7/01 - 4:30 PM PST)

Ever had one of those days? I'm sitting here in my office, working on today's post, and suddenly my cable modem goes out. It's not an equipment problem, though. You see, my hosting service is Cox @Home, and if you've been following the Tech news lately, you know that the @Home service is a little unsteady these days. Lovely.

So then, while I'm pulling my hair out dealing with Cox, I happen to glance out my office window... and notice a helluva lot of bees buzzing around outside. Seems we have a whole swarm of what "could be Africanized bees - never can tell" (the words of an expert) that's taken up residence between the outside paneling and drywall above our garage. So we called in the Orkin guys to kill 'em. They took one look at the swarm and here's what they said: "No... that's too big for us. We can't help you. You need to call The Bee Man. That's a lot of bees, isn't it?" So now we've got The Bee Man coming tomorrow, complete with his special "bee suit" (no shit), to exterminate the damn things. And not for free, let me tell you. Doh!

Anyway... such is the messy business of life at the beginning of the 21st Century. Still, we've managed to post another pair of new DVD reviews this afternoon. I've given A&M's Sting: All This Time disc a spin (there's a joke here, isn't there?), and I think fans will really be pleased with it. And Greg's taken a look at Pioneer's The Psychedelic Furs: Live from House of Blues. Nothing like a little music to round out the week. And we'll have more reviews (of a few big new movie titles) on Monday.

Finally today, we've got some good news for you Final Countdown fans. Word is that the DVD we mentioned earlier will include anamorphic widescreen video mastered from "an original 35mm print", Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, the theatrical trailer, production stills, a limited "behind the scenes" section and actor bios. The film will also be the "uncut 114-minute version". Thanks to Jonathan for the heads up.

Have a great weekend everyone! We'll see you Monday... hopefully, not nursing a host of bee stings... ;-)

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/7/01 - 10:30 AM PST)

We're getting word that Pacific Family Entertainment has finally decided upon a January 15th street date for their long-awaited Final Countdown DVD. SRP is $19.95. There's no word yet on what the features might be, if any, but we'll let you know as soon as we hear anything.

We've also just posted Todd's List of 10 DVDs Coming Next Week in the Doogan's Views section. Be sure to check it out.

Back soon...

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