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page updated: 6/27/01

My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 6/8/01 - 5/15/01)

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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 first.

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, Cinderella, The 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 included.

The extras, which we listed yesterday, are extensive. In that way, you can almost think of The Fantasia Anthology and The 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...

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: Platinum Edition (2-discs)

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 DVD-ROM extras.

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!

Stay tuned...

(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 The 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.

Stay tuned...

(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. Whew!

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 here.

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.

Stay tuned...

(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, there's 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 Watch.

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... San 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 package?

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... ;-)

Stay tuned!


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 The 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 the article (and a companion editorial) at the publication's website.

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.

Stay tuned...


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 The 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 also available 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 The 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 television. Whew. Click here for more via Yahoo.

There's also word via Yahoo that Tom Waits' concert movie Big Time is on its way to DVD, along with a concert DVD from the band Train.

Finally, this morning, USA 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.

Stay tuned...

(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 Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection on DVD. All 6 discs in the set have been reviewed, including Bus Stop, The Seven Year Itch, How to Marry a Millionaire, There's No Business Like Show Business, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Marilyn 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 available. Click 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 up.

Stay tuned...

(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 clicking here. Fascinating...

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. Click 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 Home Theater Forum. The group now has an online 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 The 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.

Stay tuned...


We wanted to point out an interesting news item that's appeared in Daily Variety and then online over at Coming Soon and also Popcorn. 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 Rumor Mill update.

And 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.

Stay tuned...

(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). Click 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 Trivia Contest, 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.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/22/01 - 3:30 PM PDT)

We've got more Kubrick for you this afternoon - updated reviews of Eyes Wide Shut, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining and the documentary, Stanley 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. Click 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 2001: A Space Odyssey and Full 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 Kubrick review index, so be sure to check it throughout the day.

Stay tuned...


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 Cast Away: Special Edition (street date 6/12), as well as USA's Traffic (5/29). And we round things out today with a look at MGM's X: 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 Kubrick Collection.

Stay tuned...

(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!

Forrest Gump: Collector's Edition

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 DVD 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.

According 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's Eric 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. Click 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, Sony 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, Microsoft's 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 outdone, Nintendo 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. Click 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 - Paramount's The Original Kings of Comedy and MGM's Mermaids, both currently available.

Also this afternoon, we've updated our mirror copy of Jim Taylor's 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 good 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.

Yahoo 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 interesting editorial by Shelley Souza on the current MPAA vs. 2600 case over DeCSS.

And, of course, with the E3 electronic game show going on this week here in L.A., there's 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...

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/15/01 - 1:30 PM PDT)

We've got another review for you today - Greg Suarez's look at Universal's Shadow 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 set. Enjoy...

Die Hard: 5-Star Edition - Main Menu

Die Hard: 5-Star Edition - Special Features Menu

Die Hard: 5-Star Edition - Cutting Room Menu

Monkeybone - Main Menu

The Die Hard Trilogy boxed setMonkeybone

And one last Fox note today - the 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 out.

Stay tuned...

(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 The 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 explain:

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 (Pollock).

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 order:

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 Clouzot.

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 Grande Illusion).

And of course, the killer of the bunch... Kurosawa's ultimate film experience, Seven Samurai (Shichi-Nin No Samurai).

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 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.

Stay tuned...

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