UPDATE (10/23/98 - 9:15 PM PDT)
The winners of the October Trivia Contest
have been announced! Thanks to all 613 people
who entered (making this the biggest contest yet). The November contest
will begin soon, so stay tuned...
EARLY UPDATE (10/23/98 - 2:30 AM PDT)
Want some big news? MGM has finally cut a deal with Seagram for the
purchase of the Polygram catalog. That means that lots of Polygram films
will finally be making their way to DVD via MGM Home Entertainment. You
can read the press releases by clicking
This is good news in my book - MGM's been doing a VERY nice job with
their DVDs as of late (including lots of anamorphic titles).
Want some even bigger news? On October 12th, the U.S. House of
Millennium Copyright Act. The Senate cleared it a few days
earlier, meaning that all that is now required is President Clinton's
signature to pass the bill into law (expected any day now). The bill
would make it illegal to create or sell any technology that could be
used to break copyright protection devices, or to commit an actual act
of circumvention. This is the 'digital copyright legislation' that so
many of those in Hollywood have been waiting for. The fact that it's
about to become law, has a lot to do with the increased support for DVD
you've been seeing from former holdouts to the format. The Act is based
largely on the
Copyright Treaty, which was adopted by many countries
internationally in 1996.
All right... around the Bits
today, I've got new information on several studios' upcoming DVDs, which
you'll find in their respective sections in the
Studio & DVD
News section. There's stuff on
Vista, so be sure to check it all out. The MGM
features a look at the packaging for Gone
With the Wind.
By the way, that issue of Premiere
magazine I mentioned with the DVD articles IS the November issue (Will
Smith on the cover). The articles in question are Blame
it on DVD (page 79) and Disc Fever
(page 82). Not to mention that the issue has more DVD advertising than
you can shake a stick at...
Finally, check back later this evening for the announcement of the
Trivia Contest winners for October.
All right, you'll find an update on the December DVDs from Paramount in
Mill update. Some date changes and a couple of new titles.
I'm hearing that the latest issue of Premiere
magazine has a ton of DVD-related articles and information in it. I
believe it's the November issue, so if you spot it on your local
newsstand, be sure to check it out. I would imagine that their
will eventually have some of this as well.
Those of you who haven't yet done so yet this week, should get out and
buy yourself a couple of DVDs to show your support for the format. This
is, after all, DVD
Week. While you're at it, drop on by your local Circuit City or
Good Guys store and, if you spot a customer looking at Divx, steer them
back to our side of The Force...
An interesting DVD newsbit on-line: MGM is trying to buy the Polygram
catalog again (see the press release
Get those entries in! We're picking this month's Trivia
Contest winners tomorrow.
your on-line source for all things Back to
the Future, has a look at the cover artwork for the upcoming
Back to the Future: Collector's Edition
Finally, a funny side-note - I just learned the title of the upcoming
Austin Powers sequel: Austin
Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me... yeah baby! I already
can't wait for the DVD...
Be sure to check out the five new DVD reviews, by the Bits'
own Todd Doogan. You'll find reviews of John Carpenter's
on Precinct 13, as well as Ninja
Scroll and a pair of Columbia TriStar titles - The
Quick and the Dead and Wild
Also, I've got some interesting new information on Warner's plans to
bring some Kubrick films to DVD next year in today's
Finally, Peter Bracke of the DVD
File was able to confirm that all those upcoming DreamWorks
DVDs will be in full Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, not the Dolby Surround
indicated on their press release. So all of you DTS/Spielberg conspiracy
buffs can chill now. ;-)
I've got lots more information on new DVDs in today's
update, including the details on the Armageddon
DVD (set for January), and new Paramount December and January
information. You will also find the complete text of Universal's Amblin
release in the
Studio & DVD
Be sure to get your entries in for the Trivia
Contest, to win one of those Star Trek:
First Contact DVDs. There's only a few days left.
Tomorrow, I'll be posting more new reviews from Todd, including Ninja
Scroll, The Quick and the Dead,
Halloween, and Assault
on Precinct 13. So don't miss them. In the meantime, there's
article on the DVD vs. Divx format war over at the
Minneapolis / St.
Paul Star Tribune (via the New
To start things off today, those of you who haven't read the
in the last week or so, are recommended to check out the last three or
four updates (starting with the 10/14 post). There is a ton of major new
DVD title information for December, and particularly next year. You'll
find the skinny on several big DVD titles in the works, including X-Files,
Truman Show and more. Definitely
recommended reading. Today's update also includes information of some of
Paramount's December titles (including Deep
Impact and that Howard Stern movie)...
Just when we thought a Titanic
DVD was months away, comes an interesting piece of information from (of
all places) an office supply catalog.
Solutions, in conjunction with Maxell,
is running an interesting new contest for folks who purchase office
supplies from their Winter Computer Supplies
and Accessories catalog. Two lucky winners will receive a
Panasonic DVD player "with free Titanic
DVD". According to the catalog, prizes will be shipped in February.
Many thanks to the Bits reader who
faxed me the photocopies of the catalog. If anyone has the catalog and
can actually scan the cover (and the rules on page 103), I'd be happy to
post them here. Note that neither company has any details about the
contest on their web sites - I just provided the links FYI.
We'll have some new disc reviews up here at the Bits
over the next few days, and I'm working on an overhaul of the links
section. In the meantime, there's an
article (but brief) on anamorphic DVD over at Stereophile
Guide to Home Theater. Oh... almost forgot - buy request of
several readers, I've added a scan of the DVD Snapper case for the new
Exorcist: Special Edition DVD on
Friedkin signing page, so feel free to check that out.
Well, the page should now be loading noticeably faster for most of you.
In addition to the banner code adjustment I mentioned yesterday, I've
gone through every one of the hundreds of graphics that appear
throughout the pages of the Bits,
and optimized them all for faster load times. Let me know if you see an
There's a brief but interesting
over at Variety.com,
on the new Dolby Digital "6.1" sound system that George Lucas
intends to introduce to theaters with Star
Wars: The Phantom Menace next spring. Seems to involve the
addition of an additional center channel speaker to the mix. Should be
cool, but will have no impact whatsoever on DVD, so I wouldn't get
worked up about it.
Finally, there's BIG news in the
today. Several of my contacts e-mailed me yesterday, with details on
Buena Vista and MGM's January 1999 DVD line-up, as well as details on
the disc specs for DreamWorks' upcoming DVDs in December. You definitely
don't want to miss it. Here's a hint: that big movie about the Doomsday
rock from outer space should hit DVD in January (and I don't mean Deep
All right, time for me to unwind for a couple of days. I'm beat.
Everybody have a great weekend!
The latest CEMA numbers are in for the week ending October 9th - 16,338
players sold to retailers. The running total is now up to 921,099.
I'm going to be doing a code update to EVERY page of the site today,
involving theden banners. Due to the
particular port numbers the banner code used before, those of you who
read the Bits from AOL or a server
with heavy firewall protection, experienced a delay in page loading. I
have received a fix for this problem from theden,
so you should see this resolved in the next day or two. Let me know if
the delays continue.
In the meantime, I've posted my
(with pictures) on the William Friedkin signing last night at Dave's
Laser. It was a great deal of fun, and the turnout was terrific. Thanks
to everyone involved.
I've got a couple of interesting new bits of information in today's
update, on Titanic and some
Spielberg DVDs. I've also updated the
page in the Studio
& DVD News section, with a press release on the record sales
of Lost in Space on DVD.
Finally, around the Net today there's an
on DVD-Audio over at ZDNet.
has a brief
on DVD market share, and a
on the City of Angles DVD. And
has announced more new DVD titles.
Today's update is going to be very brief. The reason is that I'm going
behind the scenes at an L.A. area DVD authoring house this morning, and
will be bringing you an in-depth report of the experience soon. So in
the meantime, here's a brief rundown of the news around the Net.
TDK is reporting a breakthrough in the creation of rewritable DVD discs
that can be played in existing DVD players. Read the press release
The negotiations between MGM and Seagram Co. to purchase Polygram have
apparently fallen apart. You can read that story
Warner Bros has issued a
release on their upcoming Quest for
Camelot DVD. And E-Town
has an interesting
(I'd call it a rant) on the subject of DTS.
Finally, for those of you in the L.A. area, don't forget to drop on by
Dave's Laser tonight for the Friedkin signing. You'll find all the
details (including the address and times) in yesterday's column. See you
"Seek and ye shall find..." or so they say. No sooner did I
post my rant about the missing X-Files
DVD yesterday, than a host of my studio insider contacts provided me
with exactly the answer I was looking for. You will DEFINITELY want to
read today's Rumor
Mill update. In fact, in addition to X-Files,
I've got a whole slew of information on Fox's upcoming DVDs, plus word
on Columbia TriStar's December titles, and a look at a few other big
studio titles as well. In fact, just about everything I could learn
about DVDs coming for early 1999 (in two weeks of intense digging) is in
today's update. So I guess the message is, don't miss it!
In other news, be sure to check out the
title announcements over at the
Entertainment site. Yesterday's announcements include a host of
new Universal DVDs.
I want to invite all of you L.A. area DVD fans up to Dave's
Video: The Laser Place in Studio City tomorrow night (10/15).
Director William Friedkin will be signing copies of The
Exorcist - 25th Anniversary Edition on DVD and laserdisc,
from 6-8 PM. Mr. Friedkin will sign two discs per person, and one must
be a copy of the new laser or DVD edition purchased in store (part of
the proceeds will go to a charity of Mr. Friedkin's choice).
Unfortunately, the DVD itself has been delayed, so when you make your
purchase, you'll get the Snapper case cover to be signed, and you'll
have to come back at a later time to pick up the actual disc (when
available). Dave's Video is at 12144 Ventura Blvd, Studio City,
California 91604. I'll be there, along with Peter Bracke from
DVD File, so drop
on by and say hello!
Finally today, if you happen to represent an on-line DVD hardware
retailer, The Digital Bits has an
opening among our banner advertising partners for you. We're looking to
establish a long-term advertising relationship with a vendor that
specializes in DVD player and DVD-ROM sales on the Net. So if your
company is interested, please send me an
Ah, yes... 10/13 has finally arrived, and where is my copy of the X-Files:
Fight the Future on DVD? Nowhere in sight. I am, however,
quite steamed that you will soon be able to pick up the pan & scan,
Divx/drink coaster version. I must confess, I'm getting a bit irritated
by studios who make half-assed commitments to DVD, yet provide lots of
hit films to Divx (and I don't mean just Fox). If things don't change
soon, it may be time to get another phone/letter/fax campaign going
Speaking of Divx, I visited a local Circuit City store last night, and
was assaulted by the number of Divx signs proclaiming it "the best
way to watch movies at home!" I mean there were like 20 right near
the door - big banners, posters - it was NOT subtle. But of course, I
still couldn't get a demo of an actual Divx disc...
Be sure to check out the always tongue-in-cheek Onion,
for a funny
on the reasons to like DVD (keep in mind, it's a joke). I actually used
to read the print version of The Onion
regularly, back at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
It's published locally, and is always good for a laugh.
Artisan Entertainment has issued a press release regarding their
upcoming DVD titles Earth Girls Are Easy
and Weekend at Bernie's (you'll
find the details
Also, Image Entertainment has tentatively reached a distribution
agreement with Panasonic Interactive Media, over the release of Twilight
Zone and 1998 Winter Olympic
DVDs (see press release
Finally today, just to quality those CEMA DVD player sales numbers that
I mentioned yesterday, 60,094 DVD players were sold to retail during the
week ending October 2nd. The month of September saw a record 113,558
As you may have noticed, there were no updates over the weekend. No, I
wasn't being lazy. The reason is actually that I was attending Home
Theater magazine's annual Entertainment Expo & Sale in
nearby Newport Beach, California.
All of the usual suspects were in attendance, including DTS, Image
Entertainment, Widescreen Review
magazine, DVD Express, and representatives from many of the major audio
and video equipment manufacturers. The basic idea is to show off the
latest home theater products to consumers. That being the case, Digital
TV demos, High Definition and thin-screen plasma TVs were in abundance.
For the benefit of those of you who are a bit confused by these terms,
I'll provide a brief explanation. Digital TV (DTV) is basically an
umbrella term, which encompasses some 18 different audio-visual and data
transmission formats. These include both digital Standard Definition TV
(SDTV - both 480 progressive and 480 interlaced) and true High
Definition TV (HDTV - 1080 interlaced and 720 progressive). These
different broadcasts options will eventually provide you with the
following: more detailed images, clearer pictures without ghosts and
show, Dolby Digital six channel audio, widescreen pictures (16x9 aspect
ratio) and on-screen data (such as text and graphics - the latest sports
scores, up-to-the-minute stock reports, etc...).
Limited Digital TV broadcasting is expected to begin in 10 test cities
on November 1st, with another 20 cities expected to be on-line by May of
2000. Some of your favorite movies are already being transferred for
HDTV broadcasting, and many of your favorite TV shows have been filmed
in actual widescreen, in anticipation of HDTV, for several years. Even
the Tonight Show is preparing to
go Hi-Def, so there should be plenty of programming to watch on these
Most current TVs will be upgradable to DTV with the addition of set-top
converter boxes (although you'll still see a Standard Definition
picture). Some of the newest TVs (with widescreen aspect ratios) will be
able to show you true HDTV with the new boxes. And a number of actual
DTVs are now on the way to market. Actual DTVs feature the 16x9 aspect
ratio, and are capable of displaying all 18 DTV formats, as required by
the FCC. Judging by those I saw at the show, the improved picture
quality is impressive, but you'll have to pay through the nose to get
it, at least for now.
Among the sets I viewed were several rear-screen offerings by
Mitsubishi, from DTV/HDTV upgradable sets (starting at $3,999) to a
massive, 65", 16x9, true DTV (the HD-1080, for a whopping $10,000).
Also in evidence were DTV/HDTV projectors from Runco and Zenith (both in
the $13,000 to $15,000 price range), and a SharpVision set (the
64LHP5000, also for about $10,000). The High Definition signals being
displayed on these sets at the show, were driven by data encoded on
powerful, 10 gig hard drives. Among the programming material were a
college football game, and a series of nature images (I am now
thoroughly convinced, that widescreen is the ONLY way to watch football
on TV!). One thing to note, is that many of the sets I saw (particularly
the SharpVision) had built-in line doublers, capable of converting
current TV broadcasts, and video sources such as DVD, into higher
As for thin-screen plasma displays, several were on hand, including
models from Marantz, JVC, Phillips, Runco, and Pioneer (price $9,000 up
to $35,000). All were very neat to see, but all had trouble reproducing
deep blacks, and suffered from a lack of clarity and detail. The Pioneer
was perhaps the most impressive of the lot, but clearly none were ready
for primetime. I have no doubt, however, that within 20 to 25 years, a
thin, 16x9, HDTV/DTV plasma screen (that you can hang on your wall),
will become affordable and common. And that's the bottom line with all
of the DTV displays I saw at the show. My belief is that it will take at
least 10 years for them to become truly affordable, and perhaps another
10 for them to achieve significant market penetration. But they are
clearly the future of television.
By the way, I had planned to take pictures with my trusty digital
camera, so that you could all see some examples of these DTVs, but the
conditions just didn't permit it. In many cases, the crowds were just
too dense to get a clear shot. And in other cases, the displays were in
darkened rooms, or had highly reflective screens - the shots would have
been lousy. Oh well...
I did have occasion to attend a presentation on DTS by David DelGrosso,
and spoke with him about their upcoming DVDs. The presentation was quite
interesting - it answered many questions I had on the format,
particularly with respect to DVD. At David's invitation, I'll be
visiting DTS in early November, for an in-depth, behind-the-scenes
article on the format. So as they prepare to roll out the first of their
DTS DVD titles, you'll be able to read the whole inside story here at
In other news today, you can read the latest on DreamWorks' upcoming
DVD titles in the
And I've updated the CEMA DVD player sales numbers as well. To end
today's update on a high note, the last week of September saw a whopping
60,094 DVD players sold. We're now officially over the 900,000 players
sold into retail mark.
At last week's DVD Conference, Warner Home Video president Warren
Lieberfarb gave a speech in which he predicted that some 5,000 rental
outlets will carry DVD by the end of the year. "The fourth quarter
of 1998 will be a turning point for DVD," he said. Some interesting
sales figures he quoted: 153,000 units of Sphere
have shipped thus far (generating $1.8 million in revenue), along with
215,000 units of U.S. Marshals
($2.4 million), and 101,750 units of City of
Angels ($1.6 million).
On the Divx front, remember all those pieces of propaganda from Divx,
which claimed that Divx discs can be converted to "unlimited-play
Silver" discs for a nominal charge? Well, I've had a number of
e-mails from consumers who gave Divx a shot and then returned the
players, because too many movies couldn't be upgraded. So I did a bit of
digging. Here's what I found out - not only can some movies NOT be
upgraded, meaning you will incur a fee EVERY time you watch, but the
price to upgrade many discs is much higher than Divx let on. Here's a
list of titles I choose at random from the Divx web site:
That Thing You Do - Silver price:
101 Dalmations (live action) -
Silver price: $19.99
Volcano - Silver price: $19.99
The Full Monty - Silver price:
Scream - Silver price: $19.99
Star Trek: First Contact - no
Star Trek: Generations - no
Flubber - Silver price: $19.99
So how do you like that? After paying the $4.49 "bargain"
price of buying the Divx discs initially, and paying the additional
$19.99 conversion price, you've paid almost as much as the sale price of
an average DVD movie, yet you still have a disc that can't be shared
with friends, and still has no features to speak of. What a deal. And if
you're a Star Trek fan, you're
just screwed, period. Guess you better be sure you only want to watch
that movie once!
Well, it seems to be official. I have (yesterday) received Paramount's
information sheet regarding their November DVD titles. And it indicates
that all of the November titles will be in non-anamorphic widescreen.
Mission Impossible will also
include a standard version. This is extremely disappointing, as fully
half of their October DVDs were released in anamorphic widescreen,
including almost ALL of their October 6th set. I hope very much that DVD
consumers will (politely) let Paramount know how you feel about this
issue. It really is a shame that so many DVD titles are being released
without making use of one of DVD's most important features. By now, you
should all certainly know how I feel on this issue (read my
editorial for my argument in favor of anamorphic DVD). I certainly
hope that Paramount's December titles will fare better...
Also, I have (this afternoon) confirmed with Buena Vista Home
Entertainment, that the Scream: Collector's
Edition DVD will NOT be the unrated director's cut (as
appeared on the laserdisc). The reason, is that it is Buena Vista's
policy not to release unrated versions of films. The laserdisc was
released by a licensee, which was not subject to this policy. The
confusion appears to be a result of a misprint on one sell-sheet that
was recently issued. Once again, I have confirmed with Buena Vista that
the Scream: CE will NOT be the
Alas, today appears to be a massively slow DVD news day, so I'll just
give you a quick round-up and send you on your way. But just to let
everyone know, the October Trivia Contest is now
up, so be sure to enter for your chance to win one of five DVD copies of
Star Trek: First Contest. It'll be
a short contest this month. As the disc went on sale Tuesday, I've
decided to announce the winners a little earlier (on the 23rd). So be
sure to get your entries in!
release available on the bidding for Polygram's film unit, which
makes for interesting reading. DVD
File has an interesting story on how Armageddon,
when it makes its way to Divx, will be in anamorphic widescreen. I
wasn't sure I could hate Divx any more than I now do, but what do you
know.... All I can say, is that Buena Vista had better get their act
together on the anamorphic issue ASAP, or things could get ugly.
And finally, I've got a scan up of an advertisement that appeared in a
recent issue of the LA Times. It's
an ad for the Wherehouse, promoting DVD (they rent and sell DVDs in many
of their locations). Dig the tongue-in-cheek shot at Divx. Thanks to
Andy Patrizio over at TechWeb
for the quick scanner work. And a big Digital
Bits hats off to the creative folks behind the ad (nicely
Have a great day, and stay tuned...!
OK, there's an important issue that I think needs to be addressed here.
There are a lot of people out there who have made the conclusion that
Reel.com is carrying
Divx product, or has the intention to do so in the future, based on a
statement that was found by many on their web site, and on the Discover
card site. But before you jump the gun, and assume that Reel.com is
supporting Divx, there are two things to consider. First, you CANNOT
purchase Divx product on the Reel.com site. Anywhere. Not a single item.
Second, after speaking with Eric Hom, Reel.com's director of Business
Development, I have been made to understand that the Divx wording in the
contract found on their site, is actually quite an effective anti-Divx
Consider this... as a business Reel.com is forced to consider all of
the possible future options. If Divx were to take off, and become the
greatest thing since sliced pizza, they'd have to at least consider
carrying it. But that is unlikely to happen - none of their consumers
have ever asked for Divx, according to Mr. Hom, or ever shown
unhappiness with DVD. But by including Divx wording in their contracts
with their business partners now, despite the fact that they currently
have no intention of actually carrying Divx, they actually prevent those
partners from working with anyone who does carry Divx. By getting
partners to affiliate with Reel.com as "your provider for video
(new and used videos), laserdisc, DVD, and DIVX commerce" and then
not actually carrying Divx product, the affiliate doesn't end up
carrying Divx product. Get it?
Bottom line - don't be so quick to jump down Reel.com's throat - they
seem to have done as much to NOT support Divx as anyone... and they do
wholeheartedly support open DVD.
Now, on to DVD news. HBO
Home Video has issued a
release on their forthcoming From the
Earth to the Moon DVDs.
Entertainment has posted a new
with some new DVD title information. Gotta say, I'm looking forward to
that I, Spy DVD (I've always dug
that show). TechWeb
has posted another interesting article - DVD
Reaches Critical Mass (gotta like that title). And it looks as
though Artisan and Pioneer have reached an agreement wherein Pioneer
will release some 100 catalog titles from Artisan to DVD (including the
recent, made-for-TV film Asteroid,
starring Michael Biehm). You can read that
I'll be working on some new reviews for the next couple of days, and be
sure to check back later today for the beginning of the October
Trivia Contest. I've also archived my daily
columns again, so this page should be loading a lot faster (you can
always read the old ones by using the link at the very bottom of the
yeah... almost forgot. Hey Minnesota fans... how does 5-0 sound? GO
Lots more from the world of DVD tomorrow, so stay tuned...
So did everyone have a good weekend? Right off the top, I want to let
everyone here know that the October Trivia Contest
will be starting tomorrow. So be sure to enter then, for you chance to
win one of 5 DVD copies of Star Trek: First
Now... I've been able to get a hold of the packaging artwork for Good
Will Hunting, so you can take a look at it. I also got Scream,
but it's virtually identical to the original DVD release of this title,
so I'm not even going to bother posting it. I think, "I'm not even
going to bother" is the best way to describe the Scream:
Collector's Edition DVD.
At this point, I really have to make my displeasure with Buena Vista
known. There's really no excuse for the lack of anamorphic enhancement
on their DVDs, other than a half-assed commitment to the format. 4
mediocre DVDs a month, does not a commitment make. And if the studio is
going to do a Collector's series, they need to offer collector's
something worth buying. Although Good Will
Hunting will certainly have good content - it's awfully hard
to justify spending $40 for these DVDs without anamorphic widescreen.
This is particularly the case with Scream,
which will not even offer the director's cut - it's basically the same
old DVD, with the kind of extras that should have been on it in the
first place. The kind of DVD Warner Bros. WOULD have released in the
first place, WITH anamorphic widescreen, and at $24.99... not $39.99.
Very, VERY disappointing. I urge everyone to contact the studio (using
their information in the Bits
section) and make you displeasure about their DVDs known.
Some more interesting information has been brought to my attention,
true Divx intentions. They told me directly, that the Divx statement on
the Discover card site was a mistake only, and that they never had any
intention of carrying Divx. But that now appears to be a less then
truthful claim. If you look at their
Program agreement on their site, you'll see what I mean. Just in
case they quickly change the wording, here's what it said this morning:
"This Agreement contains the terms and conditions agreed upon
between you (Producer Website) and us (Reel.com) with respect to
Reel.com serving as your provider for video (new and used videos),
laserdisc, DVD, and DIVX commerce (collectively referred to herein as
Oops. Thanks to Steve Tannehill over at the
DVD Resource Page
for bringing that to my attention.
Around the Net today, DVD
File has some
cover artwork for upcoming Columbia TriStar DVDs, so be sure to
check that out. And Stereophile
Guide to Home Theater has a
article on DVD from the DVD Conference.
Finally today, I'd like to give a nod to actor Roddy McDowall, perhaps
best known for his work in Planet of the Apes,
who died over the weekend. He'll be missed.
Just a quick update for today. First of all, those CEMA numbers for the
week ending September 25th are in: 26,054 DVD players sold to retailers.
The running total is now up to 844,667 players sold into retail in the
United States since March '97.
I've spoken with MGM Home Video, and confirmed that both Kingpin
and A Fish Called Wanda are being
delayed so that widescreen transfers can be included on the DVDs. No
word yet on whether this will be anamorphic widescreen, or if the discs
will still include the pan & scan - I'm told the final features will
be announced when the revised release dates for these titles are
determined. As for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
and The Last Tango in Paris, they
have been delayed due to production problems only, and will be released
with the original announced disc features. Their revised release dates
are 11/10 and 11/13 respectively.
Speaking of MGM, you'll find a first look at the DVD packaging for the
November and December titles on the
MGM page in
the Studio &
DVD News section.
Finally, Andy Patrizio has filed the third of his reports from the DVD
Forum conference over at TechWeb,
so be sure to read Recordable
DVD Formats Emerge.
Have a great weekend!
LATE UPDATE (10/2/98 - 10 AM PST)
Buena Vista has just faxed me the press release for their December DVD
titles, which will include Good Will Hunting
and Scream (both as those
Collector's Series DVDs I told you about in the
Mill a while back) and also The Hand
that Rocks the Cradle and Six
Days, Seven Nights. You can find the full press release in
Vista page in the
Studio & DVD
Also, another of Andy Patrizio's reports from the DVD Forum conference
is in over at TechWeb
- this one is called: DVD
Adoption Outpaces VHS, CDs.
EARLY UPDATE (10/2/98 - Midnight PST)
CEMA DVD player numbers appear to be late this week, so I'll get them
to you as soon as they come in. In the meantime, I've updated the Bits'
mirror copy of Jim
Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to the most recent version (Sept. 25).
Also, Universal has issued a
release, regarding their upcoming DTS DVD titles. And I've also
learned some very interesting pieces of DVD information, the details of
which are as follows...
First of all, I have talked with an official spokesperson at MGM, who
confirms that the reason Kingpin
was has been delayed, is that they are going back to do a brand new
anamorphic widescreen transfer for the DVD release. This may also be the
case with A Fish Called Wanda - my
contact is checking, and I will post the information here as soon as it
I have to give MGM a great deal of credit. If you've read the Bits
recently, you'll know that I have been very critical of their decision
to release movies in pan & scan or full frame format only, when they
were originally exhibited in theaters in a widescreen aspect ratio (Moonstruck
is the most recent example). I was also less than kind when it became
apparent that several other films released by MGM on DVD would be in
non-anamorphic widescreen (think 2001: A
Space Odyssey - a major shame). I encouraged those of you who
read the Bits to contact MGM, and
tell them exactly how you feel about this issue. Many of you did.
Several of my fellow DVD web sites, including
and DVD File,
expressed similar sentiments. Even film critic Roger Ebert has gotten in
on the act, commenting as follows in the current issue of Home
"MGM recently brought out Moonstruck
panned and scanned because, I was told, they feel that it's a comedy so
people don't want it widescreen. Well, on DVD, you can give people
widescreen on one side and pan-and-scan on the other. Why not have
enough love for the medium to have respect for the material? I know that
there's a large market of philistines who like pan-and-scan and always
will. But sooner or later, widescreen TVs will be in lots of living
He's right - bottom line. And it looks as though MGM has gotten the
message. As you know, several of the titles MGM released on Tuesday
arrived on DVD in anamorphic widescreen, when they had originally been
announced in simple matted letterbox. These include Logan's
Run, Leviathan, Lord
of Illusions and Westworld
- a very nice surprise indeed. And now that MGM has delayed Kingpin,
and hopefully A Fish Called Wanda,
to do them in anamorphic widescreen... well, as I said, they deserve a
great deal of credit in my book. Credit for listening to their
consumers, and credit for having enough respect for the films
themselves, to present them in the best light on DVD. Now if we could
just get Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
on DVD in its original Super Panavision 70 widescreen (aspect ratio
2.20:1), all would be right with the world.
On to another studio that's about to make a splash on DVD - Paramount.
I have been speaking with representatives of the studio to determine
whether their November titles (which were mentioned in the
a week ago, and which were officially announced via
yesterday) would be in anamorphic widescreen. All are currently listed
only as letterboxed widescreen. Initial word is that the announcement is
correct - none will be anamorphic. My contact is double-checking this,
so there's room for a bit of hope. This would be a major disappointment,
given the fact that the majority of their October titles are
anamorphic-enhanced. Stay tuned.
So after all the ranting and raving I've been doing about anamorphic
widescreen these last few days, I've received a few e-mails from
consumers who don't fully understand what it means. With that in mind,
I've written an editorial on the subject: The
Big Squeeze: The ABCs of Anamorphic DVD. You'll learn a bit of
everything, from early film history to Digital TV, and how it all ties
in to the benefits of anamorphic widescreen on DVD.
I've also been getting some concerned e-mails from folks who fear DTS
almost as much as Divx. This fear, though understandable, is unfounded.
Let me clear up a couple of misconceptions. First of all, DTS does not
make your current DVD player, or Dolby Digital-capable receivers
obsolete. Anyone familiar with the way DTS is currently handled on
laserdisc knows that 99% of the time, new movies are released in
separate Dolby Digital and DTS versions (if they are released on DTS at
all). I know of few instances where films are released as DTS-exclusive.
The reason is simple - if DVD and laserdisc are niche markets, the
percentage of those markets that are DTS-capable is much smaller. Any
company releasing a hit film to laserdisc or DVD in only DTS would lose
their shirt. So relax - you are EXTREMELY unlikely to ever see a
DTS-only DVD of Jurassic Park, or
any other film for that matter. Think of it like this - Spielberg's DVD
embargo was motivated by a desire for the DVD player market to grow in
size. Does it make any sense for him to release a DTS-exclusive DVD,
given that the number of DTS-capable players number only in the
thousands (despite his financial interest in the audio format)? Not
likely. In fact, virtually every DTS DVD title that I know to be in the
works, is already available on DVD in Dolby Digital. And I suspect that,
in the few cases where a title is only available in pan & scan on
DVD, and is released in widescreen on DTS DVD, you will see a standard
DVD re-release in widescreen. Plus, all DTS DVDs will include a Dolby
Digital 2.0 soundtrack, so you can still play them on your existing DVD
The only real issue is whether DTS DVDs will actually sound better than
Dolby Digital DVDs to the average consumer. Or better enough to justify
the premium price. Yes, the bit rates will be higher, and DTS will
utilize less compression. But if the difference isn't audible without
having to have ultra-high end equipment (the realm of the stereophile),
who cares? We'll have to wait until the software is in hand (and we
critics have all made our A/B comparisons) to know the answer. In the
meantime (in my opinion), Dolby Digital 5.1 sound on DVD sounds
phenomenal. And the fact is, most people don't even have the equipment
to take advantage of Dolby Pro Logic yet - even those with DVD players.
DTS DVDs will be an option you can either take advantage of or not -
something of a connoisseur product. It is NOTHING like Divx. Dolby
Digital 5.1 audio will not go away on DVD - it is the defacto audio
standard for DVD (and Digital TV for that matter as well). So relax.
Now, moving on... there are some good DVD articles up around the Net
today. Check out the first of my good buddy Andy Patrizio's reports for
TechWeb, from the
DVD Forum conference in San Francisco - DVD-Audio
To Make CDs Obsolete. He's got more reports on the way, so be
sure to keep checking back. Also, there's a
of a recent ABC News poll on Divx over at the Stereophile
Guide to Home Theater site. Finally, in the print realm, be
sure to check out the aforementioned Home
Theater magazine (October issue) for a very humorous report
on editor-at-large Ron Sabin's recent experiences as a Divx
secret-shopper in San Francisco. Plus you get to see Ebert's home
theater setup (thumbs up, Roger!).
Have a good weekend!
Congratulations to all of the winners of the September
Trivia Contest! I'm planning to get the October
contest up right away, and run it for just a couple of weeks. The prize
will be Star Trek: First Contact
on DVD - a disc guaranteed to please. So be sure to check back soon for
Around the site today, I've done some more archiving, so particularly
the home page should be loading faster. I've updated the
100 Films on DVD List. You'll also find some information on Buena
Vista and DreamWorks in the
today - just a couple of tidbits.
Regarding the Buena Vista / Region 2 anamorphic issue, I've spoken with
a representative for Buena Vista Home Video, who indicates that, given
the fact that most all of the other major studios are utilizing this
feature on their DVDs, anamorphic enhancement of Buena Vista's Region 1
titles is currently under review. Certainly this would be a welcome
addition. Buena Vista discs have thus far been the most expensive, yet
under-featured, DVDs released by any studio. And anamorphic widescreen
is the single greatest quality improvement of DVD over previous formats
like laserdisc and VHS. So get with the program Buena Vista!
Also, I've spoken with representatives of DTS and Image Entertainment
regarding DTS's DVD software statement yesterday. There are indeed some
things in the works, and a press release from Universal regarding their
DTS DVDs is apparently being finalized. So, with any luck, we should see
at least a couple of DTS DVDs before the end of the year. That said,
given all the trouble DTS has had with slippery release dates, I'm not
going to mention any particular titles or release dates until I'm
confident that we'll actually see them. In the meantime, you can get a
free copy of the DTS Sampler DVD # 3
(which uses the DTS-out) via a free mail-in coupon in the Laser
Magic 1998 issue of Widescreen
Review, which is on news stands now.
has a funny
up on their site, comparing the advantages of renting DVDs from them,
over 'renting' from Divx. Very tongue-in-cheek, and sure to bring a
Finally today, I wanted to let you know that my mail server experienced
something of a glitch last night (4PM to 11PM PST). So anyone who sent
me mail during that time, had it bounce back on them. The problem should
now be corrected, so feel free to resend anything you may have had
trouble sending. Also, just to let you know, I try very hard to respond
to as much of my e-mail as possible. Unfortunately, I get in excess of
100 messages a day sometimes, so I can't get back to everyone. But know
that I do read everything, and I greatly value and appreciate your
Welcome to October, and have a good day!