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Studio Day 1999
Dave's Video: The Laser Place - Studio City, CA - 11/20/99

Dave's Video: The Laser Place
Dave's Video - The Laser Place (file photo - it wasn't this sunny,
and I forgot to take pictures with the digital camera). ;-)

Introduction

Every year, Dave's Video - The Laser Place (in Studio City, CA) sponsors its much beloved Studio Day, to give the home video divisions of the major Hollywood studios an opportunity to receive direct, one-on-one feedback from consumers, about their laserdisc and DVD product. Often, the studios will also reward loyal fans with a sneak peak at upcoming releases. It's a wonderful opportunity for those who produce our favorite discs to mingle and chat with the folks who are most avid about collecting them.

Dave's has been holding these events for a decade, and this 12th annual, final Studio Day of the millennium, promised to be well-attended, now that all of the studios have chosen to embrace DVD in a significant way. Regrettably, Fox and Universal personnel were unable to attend at the last moment due to personal schedule conflicts. Still, Hollywood was well represented, with staff on hand from Artisan Entertainment, Buena Vista, Columbia TriStar, DreamWorks, Image, Lucasfilm THX, MGM Home Entertainment, New Line, Paramount, Pioneer, the Sony DVD Center, Trimark, Warner Bros. and more. Also on hand were representatives from manufacturers such as Yamaha, Pioneer Electronics, Atlantic Technologies, Jamo, NAD, PSB and Tara Labs.

The special guest of the day, of course, was Leonard Maltin of Entertainment Tonight. I was fortunate to have the pleasure of meeting him, and chatting with him for a few minutes about DVD. It's always great to meet a fellow movie buff, and Leonard, all the great work he does on TV and in print aside, is first and foremost a serious fan of film. And he's wonderfully easy to talk to. Later, he spoke briefly to the crowd about the DVD format, and how excited he is about what it has to offer movie fans. "At first I was worried that since DVD has been geared toward more mainstream consumers, those of us who were laserphiles and who like all of the extras and things would be left behind," he noted. "But thankfully, that hasn't been the case." In fact, he told those gathered that more casual movie fans are instead starting to discover the joy to be found in extras like director's commentaries and the like, and are becoming more educated moviegoers as a result. "This is a very exciting time for all of us."

I also had a chance to catch up on things with Peter Bracke from DVD File. He'll be posting a report on the day's discussions on his site as well, so I recommend that you all check it out (I'll provide a link below). The event was fairly well attended, and there was some good information to be learned. I was able to confirm most of what we've posted recently in The Rumor Mill, with a few exceptions (which I'll discuss). Keep in mind, all of the information you are about to hear, comes directly from the studios' authorized representatives. That said, I would caution you to apply some sense when reading - much of what is discussed here are DVD plans far into the future - all of it should be considered tentative, as any number of factors can cause things to change. We couldn't possibly talk to everyone, but we did get some good information, so let's get started...

Buena Vista

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the day came from my discussions with Buena Vista's DVD representatives. Whereas last year, they were very guarded and rather pessimistic about DVD, their attitude this year was extremely positive.

They were unable to discuss many specific titles that are currently in the works, but they made a point to stress that you'll slowly be seeing some definite changes in Buena Vista's DVD outlook, as reflected in their releases. Look for anamorphic widescreen to become a standard feature on most of the studio's major titles, starting with discs that are being produced from now on. You can also count on the studio to start paying a great deal of attention to extras on DVD, with lots of excellent special edition materials added to their discs. And perhaps the best news, is that I'm told that there's a VERY good chance that Buena Vista's DVD pricing structure will become more consumer friendly in 2000. Given that the studio is working some six months ahead in their DVD production schedule, many of the changes won't really become apparent until mid 2000. But with lots of animation in the offing, more extras, anamorphic AND better prices on the horizon, the DVD picture for Buena Vista is looking better all the time.

One thing I was able to find out a little bit more about, was Toy Story. The studio would definitely like to get it out as soon as possible, but both they and Pixar want to make sure that the quality is as high as can be obtained... which means a new direct-digital transfer (a la A Bug's Life and the forthcoming Tarzan). And that means that a lot of time and hard work is required, to get all of the original animation files out of storage, and get a new transfer done. Rest assured, it IS coming - it should blow us all away when it finally arrives on DVD.

Columbia TriStar

Fans of Sir David Lean will be happy to hear that work is beginning on DVDs of Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai for sometime in 2000. The studio is currently working to get Sir Alec Guinness involved, so the production schedule is dependent on that. The Guns of Navarone has been completed, and features new interviews with Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and director J. Lee Thompson. I learned that Kenneth Branagh's recent adaptation of Hamlet was produced through Castle Rock, so a future DVD version of that film will be determined by Warner. Willow is also now gone from Columbia's catalog. However there are lots of great titles in the works. It Happened One Night will include an original radio broadcast with C.B. DeMille. Golden Voyage of Sinbad is set for early 2000. Universal Soldier: The Return will feature several featurettes, including one on Michael Jai White's on-set workout routine. Both Sydney Pollack and Dustin Hoffman are expected to participate in the DVD version of Tootsie. Jackie Chan's Gorgeous will feature a commentary with Chan himself. The studio is very excited about the DVD possibilities for Kevin Smith's Dogma. And work has already begun to collect DVD-appropriate materials on-set for Paul Verhoeven's The Hollow Man and The Sixth Day (with Arnold Schwarzenegger). I was also able to confirm that Hook is on the way, as approved by Steven Spielberg (basically a movie-only disc). There's no word on other Spielberg releases such as Close Encounters, but the studio is hopeful that things will change next year.

DreamWorks

DreamWorks is deep in the midst of production on DVD versions of American Beauty and Galaxy Quest for release next year. American Beauty director Sam Mendes has recorded a commentary track, and is working closely on the DVD to ensure that it will be a terrific disc. In an effort to prepare for eventual DVD release of Ridley Scott's Gladiator, the studio is already beginning to gather elements that might be appropriate for use on the disc. And Invasion America is still being looked at for eventual DVD release, however don't expect it anytime soon.

DreamWorks also gave the crowd an early look at The Haunting, which boasts some neat features.

Artisan

Artisan has been doing its share to push the technical end of the DVD format, with both its recent use of DVD-18 on The Stand, and seamless branching on the Stargate: Special Edition. Both will come into play on the studio's upcoming Terminator 2: Special Edition. Work is proceeding slow but steady on the release, which is expected sometime by mid-2000. When it's done, it should make for one of the most advanced DVDs yet produced, giving you the opportunity to watch either the original, or special edition versions of the film seamlessly. And I've been told that the film's original sound designer, Gary Rydstrom, was personally involved in "sweetening" the original 5.1 soundtrack to 6.1 THX EX for the DVD.

MGM

Yes... Princess Bride IS coming to DVD in 2000 from MGM. The studio has plans to release a nice special edition DVD version of the film by mid-year. Look for the rest of the Bond films, including The World is Not Enough, lots of Orion and Polygram titles, as well as tons of great MGM catalog titles from the studio next year. Among the projects in the works, are The Thomas Crown Affair ('99), The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave, Cooley High, Diggstown, Eye of the Needle, Jason's Lyric, Scorpio, Stargate SG1, Force 10 from Navarone, Showgirls (NC17), Spaceballs, Escape from New York, Stigmata, Meteor, Wings of Desire and Heaven's Gate.

Warner Bros

Warner treated the crowd to sneak peaks of their upcoming DVD releases of The Shawshank Redemption (yes, it IS done!), Deep Blue Sea and Wild Wild West. Animation fans will be happy to know, that I learned that the studio has plans to debut the first of a series of Looney Toons Collection DVDs in 2000, masters for which are currently being evaluated. Eyes Wide Shut is also in the works (full frame, apparently per Kubrick's wishes). The studio's older catalog titles, such as the R.K.O. films, are all being evaluated, and word is that they'll require a ton of work to get them ready for DVD. Chief among them, Orson Wells' Citizen Kane is currently undergoing major restoration work to prepare it for DVD release. Also under restoration are Superman I and II.

Paramount

You'll be happy to know, that I've confirmed that work on Braveheart is underway, and that any possible release timeline is entirely dependent on the availability of director Mel Gibson, who is definitely going to be involved. The digital transfer work for Star Trek III has just begun, and you can expect the rest of the Trek films in 2000. Also in the works for next year are The Untouchables, Planes, Trains and Automobiles (director John Hughes has been contacted about providing special edition materials), The Firm and several others. Grease is still on hold due to legal issues. Forrest Gump is not yet on the schedule, so don't expect it anytime soon. However, the studio wants to do something very special on Searching for Bobby Fischer and Sunset Blvd., so they are definitely in the works. And I'm told the studio gets a lot of requests for Once Upon a Time in the West, so there is some hope that it will find its way to DVD in 2000. The studio was unable to confirm rumors of a 2000 release for The Indiana Jones Trilogy, but as work on DVDs of the films would likely be done at Lucasfilm, this doesn't necessarily mean they aren't on the way. Stay tuned on this issue.

The important thing to note about Paramount, is that the studio is very serious in its commitment to DVD, and anamorphic widescreen. And I'm told that you'll see much more in the way of special edition DVD releases from the studio in the near future.

Universal

Okay... as I said, no representative from Universal was on hand at Studio Day this year. But I did hear a pretty cool piece of scuttlebutt, which is that the studio is currently working to get Jaws ready for DVD release sometime next year. See... I told you it was cool!

Some Closing Comments

Once again, Studio Day was a tremendous success. I only wish I had been able to talk with everyone who was there from the studios and manufacturers - there just wasn't enough time in the day! However, as I mentioned, Peter Bracke of DVD File was also in attendance, and between our coverage and his, you should get a pretty good idea of what went on, and what's in the works. Be sure to check out his article on Studio Day 1999 here.

And once again, I was very pleased to meet and speak with a whole bunch of loyal Bits readers, who made a point of saying hello. I received some very nice compliments and thanks for the work that Todd and I do every day, and I can tell you that we very much appreciate the sentiments. Glad you could all make it to the event!

Finally, our coverage of Studio Day wouldn't be complete without a word of thanks to Dave and Linda Lukas, for organizing and hosting this event. Studio Day is an invaluable experience for both consumers and the studios, and Dave and Linda deserve a world of praise and thanks for getting it all together. Our hats off to them, and the whole staff of Dave's Video - The Laser Place. Can't wait to see you all again at Studio Day 2000!


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