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Site created 12/15/97.




page updated: 11/20/98



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 10/23/98 - 10/1/98)


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LATE 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 here and here. 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 Representatives finally passed the Digital 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 WIPO 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 Polygram, MGM, Warner Bros., Trimark, and Buena Vista, so be sure to check it all out. The MGM update 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.

Stay tuned...!

10/22/98

All right, you'll find an update on the December DVDs from Paramount in today's Rumor 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 on-line site 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 here).

Get those entries in! We're picking this month's Trivia Contest winners tomorrow.

bttf.com, 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 DVD.

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...

Stay tuned...!

10/21/98

Be sure to check out the five new DVD reviews, by the Bits' own Todd Doogan. You'll find reviews of John Carpenter's Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13, as well as Ninja Scroll and a pair of Columbia TriStar titles - The Quick and the Dead and Wild Things. Whew!

Also, I've got some interesting new information on Warner's plans to bring some Kubrick films to DVD next year in today's Rumor Mill update.

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. ;-)

Stay tuned...

10/20/98

I've got lots more information on new DVDs in today's Rumor Mill 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 DVD press release in the Studio & DVD News section.

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 an interesting article on the DVD vs. Divx format war over at the Minneapolis / St. Paul Star Tribune (via the New York Times).

Stay tuned...!

10/19/98

To start things off today, those of you who haven't read the Rumor Mill 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, Armageddon, Amistad, 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. Reliable Office 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 interesting 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 the William Friedkin signing page, so feel free to check that out.

More tomorrow...

10/17/98

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 improvement.

There's a brief but interesting story 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 Rumor Mill 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 Impact)...

All right, time for me to unwind for a couple of days. I'm beat. Everybody have a great weekend!

10/16/98

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 report (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 Rumor Mill update, on Titanic and some Spielberg DVDs. I've also updated the New Line 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 article on DVD-Audio over at ZDNet. Hollywood Online has a brief report on DVD market share, and a story on the City of Angles DVD. And Laserviews has announced more new DVD titles.

Stay tuned...

10/15/98

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 here. The negotiations between MGM and Seagram Co. to purchase Polygram have apparently fallen apart. You can read that story here. Warner Bros has issued a press release on their upcoming Quest for Camelot DVD. And E-Town has an interesting editorial (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 there!

10/14/98

"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 new title announcements over at the Image 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 e-mail.

Stay tuned...

10/13/98

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 again...

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 graphic 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 here). 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 here).

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 players sold.

Stay tuned...

10/12/98

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 new TVs.

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 quality images.

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 the Bits.

In other news today, you can read the latest on DreamWorks' upcoming DVD titles in the Rumor Mill. 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.

More tomorrow!

10/9/98

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: $19.99
101 Dalmations (live action) - Silver price: $19.99
Volcano - Silver price: $19.99
The Full Monty - Silver price: $19.99
Scream - Silver price: $19.99
Star Trek: First Contact - no upgrade available
Star Trek: Generations - no upgrade available
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!

10/8/98

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 latest 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 unrated version.

More tomorrow...

10/7/98

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!

There's a press 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 done)!

LA Times ad for DVD

Have a great day, and stay tuned...!

10/6/97

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 business strategy.

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 press release on their forthcoming From the Earth to the Moon DVDs. Image Entertainment has posted a new Laserviews update, 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 press release here.

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 page).

Oh, yeah... almost forgot. Hey Minnesota fans... how does 5-0 sound? GO VIKES!

Lots more from the world of DVD tomorrow, so stay tuned...

10/5/98

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 Contact.

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 studio links section) and make you displeasure about their DVDs known.

Some more interesting information has been brought to my attention, regarding Reel.com's 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 Producer's 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 videos)."

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 box cover artwork for upcoming Columbia TriStar DVDs, so be sure to check that out. And Stereophile Guide to Home Theater has a nice 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.

Stay tuned...

10/3/98

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 Rumor 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 the Buena Vista page in the Studio & DVD News section.

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.

Stay tuned...

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 press 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 is confirmed.

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 DVD Resource 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 Theater Magazine:

"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 rooms."

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 Rumor Mill a week ago, and which were officially announced via Laserviews 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 players.

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. Enough said.

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 summary 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!

Stay tuned...

10/1/98

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 that.

Around the site today, I've done some more archiving, so particularly the home page should be loading faster. I've updated the AFI Top 100 Films on DVD List. You'll also find some information on Buena Vista and DreamWorks in the Rumor Mill 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.

NetFlix has a funny chart 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 smile.

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 comments.

Welcome to October, and have a good day!


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