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Fox's X-Men DVD Event
20th Century Fox Studios - Century City, CA - 11/10/00

The Zanuck Theater on the Fox lot.
The Zanuck Theater on the Fox lot.

Last Friday morning, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment held a special promotional event in honor of their upcoming X-Men DVD, for the press and members of the Home Theater Forum, who had come to town for their annual studio pilgrimage. The event was held in the studio's Zanuck Theater, in the shadow of the infamous "Nakatomi" building from Die Hard (which is actually where most of the studio has its executive offices, including home video). The theater is also surrounded by a trio of soundstages where Fox's The X-Files is filmed, which only added to the day's atmosphere.

Greeting the attendees were plenty of Fox staffers (including most of the DVD team), lots of food and drinks and displays of props used in the filming of X-Men. The event featured a trio of special guests, including X-Men director Bryan Singer, X-Men creator Stan Lee and VP of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige.

Home Theater Forum members and press.

Home Theater Forum members and press.
Above: Home Theater Forum members and press.

The actual presentation began with a sneak peak at numerous upcoming DVD titles by members of the DVD staff. It was revealed that Fox is planning to be very active with DVD in 2001, expecting to release some 70+ titles. Starting in January, the studio plans to go back to 3 titles they've released previously, making them a little more appealing for consumers. January 23rd will see the re-release of The X-Files: Fight the Future, The Thin Red Line and The Last of the Mohicans, all with anamorphic widescreen transfers (only Thin Red Line was anamorphic previously) and all with dual Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks on the same disc. February will see the release of 2 more "double feature" discs, this time including some college comedy favorites. The first disc will feature Revenge of the Nerds and Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, while the second will include Porky's and Porky's II: The Next Day. March will feature a science fiction theme, and will see the DVD release of Alien Nation, Enemy Mine and Zardoz. In the months that follow in early 2001, you can also look forward to Point Break (with dual Dolby Digital and DTS sound), a Big Trouble in Little China: Special Edition, Chain Reaction and Unlawful Entry.

2001 will also see a number of 5 Star editions, the first of which will be a 3-disc set of the fully restored Cleopatra. The 4 ½ hour film will be made available on 2 discs (broken at the intermission), along with a disc of supplemental material, including such things as screen test footage and more. Die Hard will appear as another 5 Star title some time around mid-year. And Die Hard 2 & 3 will be re-released at the same time as special editions. All three releases will be 2-disc sets, and will include anamorphic widescreen video and dual Dolby Digital and DTS audio. Also around mid year will be a terrific Marilyn Monroe Platinum Collection boxed set, featuring Bus Stop, How to Marry a Millionaire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch, There's No Business Like Show Business and a bonus disc that includes her finished and restored final film, The Last Days. All of the films have been completely restored for DVD. And among the other 5 Star titles to look for are M.A.S.H. and The French Connection (plus one additional title TBD).

TV will also feature prominently in the studio's plans in 2001. Look for The X-Files: The Complete Third Season to be released early in the year, with The Complete Fourth Season following in the fall. Seasons of The Simpsons, M.A.S.H. and Buffy the Vampire Slayer will also be released in 2001, although Buffy will not appear here in the States until late in the year. The UK DVD release will go forward as planned in January (the U.S. release had been slated for 1/9/00). The reason for the delay here has to do with the complicated nature of the U.S. domestic syndication rights, in which Warner Bros. is obviously involved. The DVDs will be released eventually, and will hopefully be the better for the delay.

Marvel Studios VP Kevin Feige, X-Men creator Stan Lee and director Bryan Singer (middle L to R) chat with Fox's Peter Staddon (far right) and Sven Davison (far left).
Marvel Studios VP Kevin Feige, X-Men creator Stan Lee and director Bryan Singer (middle L to R) chat with Fox's Peter Staddon (far right) and Sven Davison (far left).

Following the sneak peek, came the main event. Singer, Lee and Feige took the stage to participate in a panel discussion about X-Men, the DVD and the future of the franchise. Singer revealed that he wasn't initially interested in directing the film, because he had never been a big comic book fan. And all of the comic book films he'd seen before tended to be campy. But a meeting with Lee convinced him to participate. "Stan's energy and excitement towards the notion of doing this as a film really got to me," he said. "I think that whatever film you're making, you should take the subject matter seriously. That's what I loved about the old Star Trek series. As absurd and as strange as it was, they took it seriously. And I felt that one of the key ways to send that kind of signal to audiences here was to cast good, serious actors. I think Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan ground the film and give it an elegance that really serves the film well."

For his own part, Lee was very happy with the final result. "All I have to do is create the characters. Really the most important thing - whether it's a comic book or a movie, no matter how fantastic - is to create characters that are believable and that the audience will empathize with. Once you do that, the story can be as outrageous as possible - it doesn't matter. That's why I was so excited to meet Bryan, because the guy who did the The Usual Suspects, which is one of the best movies I've ever seen - the characters are so beautifully defined. The idea that a director like that was going to do one of my cockamamie comic book stories - I couldn't get over it. He just lived up to every expectation."

As a result of the success of this film, Singer is a very busy man. He's currently negotiating with Fox to direct the sequel. And he was also very involved in the making of this DVD. "You didn't used to think about the DVD until the film was done. But now, you're thing about it really very early on. I believe a film is written three times: once on the page, once on the set and once in the editing room. And it's nice to have that place where you can show things that didn't make it into the final film - to give people a look at the theater that happens when you make a film. It's also a good place to show all of the design elements that I, as the director, get excited about, but which the audience doesn't normally get to see."

As many of you know, there have been many rumors about a possible 2nd DVD version of X-Men, with more deluxe features, being released next year. Singer made it clear that, while he does have plans (with Fox) to revisit X-Men at some point in the future, that isn't going to happen any time soon. Part of the reason that he didn't do a commentary for this DVD, was that he was right in the middle of doing press tours. "It was impossible to set it up [the schedule] in such a way that I'd have the right collaborators with me in the room to watch the film for a commentary. And also, it was right after the film came out and I didn't think I could do it justice - it wouldn't have been a worthwhile commentary. I don't think it will be for some time, until I can have some perspective on the movie. We had a confined amount of time to get this DVD done, and my first priority was to make sure that the film looked and sounded as good as possible, which takes up more disc space. There are more deleted scenes and outtakes that I'd like to show and include some day, but there's no set plan for a series of additional DVD releases. There's nothing scheduled."

Fox's Peter Staddon revealed that X-Men was their fastest (and toughest) DVD production to date. Due to the time constrains and the schedule deadlines, the studio had only 5 weeks to get the DVD mastered, from start to finish, in order to start replicating it for a November release.

Kevin Feige also had some interesting input on X-Men from Marvel's perspective. He believes that the success of X-Men and New Line's Blade heralds the beginning of a new age in comic book adaptations to the big screen. "We've had all of Stan's creations in development for a long time, and the big opening weekend we had with X-Men really got everyone excited about them again - Spiderman at Sony, Hulk at Universal and Fantastic Four at Fox. Finally, studios are starting to realize that the audience is there." In Kevin's mind, among the best aspects of all this success is that the campy bent that the old Batman TV series has long forced upon comic book films is finally a thing of the past. "These characters aren't just guys in funny costumes. They're people with problems, concerns and everyday situations. And these characters can still be the heroes that you know and love from the comics... even without the yellow Spandex."

X-Men director Bryan Singer.
X-Men director Bryan Singer.

X-Men creator Stan Lee.
X-Men creator Stan Lee.

Marvel Studios VP Kevin Feige.
Marvel Studios VP Kevin Feige.

Following the panel discussion, Fox President Pat Wyatt gave the audience a sneak peek at trailers for 4 more upcoming Fox films, including Tom Hanks in Castaway. Then there was an opportunity to chat in more detail with Singer, Lee and Feige, followed by lunch. Then, members of the Home Theater Forum were treated like VIPs throughout the afternoon. They were taken to special DVD screenings of X-Men and Me, Myself and Irene, and were given a demonstration of the restoration work that Fox has recently completed on the upcoming Marilyn Monroe films. As they say, "A good time was had by all."

Before I forget, here's a look at some of the sights that were on display...

Wolverine's X-Suit.
Wolverine's X-Suit.

Various movie props.
Various movie props.

The Professor's wheelchair.
The Professor's wheelchair.

The special effects model of the X-Jet.
The special effects model of the X-Jet.

And right next door, Stage 5... the Truth is in there.
And right next door, Stage 5... the Truth is in there.

All in all, the day was informative and entertaining. And for the HTF guests, it was a rare opportunity to give one on one feedback to a studio about their DVD product. We'd like to thank everyone at 20th Century Fox for putting on a great event, and to Singer, Lee and Feige for their time and comments. Fox is definitely the most proactive studio when it comes to DVD, and we definitely hope to see that continue with their plans for 2001.

For those who'd like to read more about this event and the other adventures of the Home Theater Forum in California, head on over to this link at HTF for their complete report. And you'll find more pictures of this event, and others from the HTF's California trip, by clicking here. Enjoy!

As always, I welcome your comments.

Bill Hunt, Editor
The Digital Bits
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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