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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/24/02

Movie Night
Custom Edition - Available Now - CinemaWise Productions

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Movie Night: Custom Edition Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/C+

Specs and Features

12 mins (main program - approx.), NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.78.1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, keep case packaging, 8 Dolby Digital trailers (Canyon, Egypt, Aurora, City, Rain, Rain (Short), Temple and Train), calibration test material (color bars, pluge test, resolution test, overscan test, grayscale steps and audio test), 100 trivia questions available randomly in program or interactively through menus, animated menu screens with music, feature access, languages: English (DD 5.1 & DTS 5.1), subtitles: none

So you've spent a lot of time and effort (and probably money) building yourself the perfect home theater. You've got the popcorn machine and the drinks dispenser, you've got the nice red velvet curtains and you've got the high-tech remote that controls everything in your house but the toilet. What more do you need to add the ultimate touch to your movie viewing experience? A Movie Night: Custom Edition DVD. Trust me, this is a disc you serious home theater-philes are going to love.

The whole purpose of the disc is to act as a preamble to your home theater viewing. When you go to a theater these days, you're often treated to a barrage of trivia questions, badly transferred TV commercials, preview trailers and "feature presentation" animations. The Movie Night DVD is designed to replicate the best aspects of that experience, without all the annoying commercials. The idea is that, once all your guests are seated in their custom, over-stuffed theater chairs, you spin this disc in your DVD player and let it run while you whip up a hot batch of popcorn and pass out the soft drinks.

With a trumpet fanfare, a logo appears welcoming your guests to your theater (more on this in a moment). Then an animation plays that takes your guests through the lobby of a movie theater, into the theater itself and right into the movie screen as the show is getting ready to start. The curtains part and a countdown ticks down. Then the screen goes black. An animation plays (just like in a real movie theater) saying that the show will start in 10 minutes... and wouldn't everyone like some snacks to enjoy during the show? Once that's done, 10 minutes of randomly selected trivia questions are shown for your guests, while a subtitle clock counts down to showtime. There are some 100 trivia questions that the program draws upon, and the player randomly selects 15 questions (never the same twice) and eventually displays the answers to each. These are no easy questions either, I can tell you. Some of these are hard-core movie fan stumpers. Once the 10 minutes counts down, a message (from "the Management") appears asking the audience to please turn off all cell phones and pagers - a nice and funny touch given that, when you go to a real theater these days, you can almost always count on 2 or 3 phone calls per movie. And finally, you're shown a wild, roller coaster animation that announces the feature presentation. Then the disc stops, and you can start the actual movie (by which time everyone has their snacks and drinks and is ready to go). It's a really cute addition to the fun of showing movies in your home theater.

But it gets even better. The whole disc is presented in anamorphic widescreen video. And you have your choice (via a main menu) of full Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1 surround sound for the entire program described above. Not only that, you also get a complete set of 8 Dolby Digital sound trailers (see the full list above), as well as a set of 6 audio/video test patterns to help you make sure your system is perfectly optimized for proper viewing. And an addition 80 trivia questions (for a total of 180 in all) can also be accessed interactively through the main menu, broken into 8 categories (Guy Movies, For Laughs, Be Serious, Star Trek Only, Scared Silly, Chick Flicks, Sci-Fi Mania and McFly!). You go through the questions, answering via your remote. When you get one right, you get the answer and can move on to the next one. Get one wrong, and a screen will pop up asking you to "try again", at which point you'll have to start the questions again from the beginning. The reward for correctly answering all the questions in a category is that one of the Dolby trailers will play.

And here's the ultimate kicker... CinemaWise Productions, which manufactures the Movie Night: Custom Edition disc, will actually customize that opening graphic for you so that it says whatever you want it to: "The Smith Family Theater", etc. It's a personalized touch to the experience, designed to really blow your guests away. And there are a variety of logo options to choose from (CinemaWise says they can even work with you if you have a custom business logo or other graphic you'd like to use). I've included a few sample screenshots from the disc below.

The Movie Night DVD is available in a less expensive, Basic Edition in addition to the Custom Edition. The Basic Edition sells for $24.95 and doesn't include the custom logo and the DTS audio option, whereas the Custom Edition is $49.95 and includes the custom logo as well as both audio options. Turn around time is very quick on the Custom Edition (just a few days unless you make a special logo request) and your player must be able to handle DVD-R media. CinemaWise has an F.A.Q. on their website that should answer all your questions.

The reality is that this disc probably isn't for everyone. But if you're a serious home theater enthusiast looking for the added "theater experience" touch that CinemaWise can provide, then the Movie Night: Custom Edition is a real bargain. I've seen similar custom DVDs selling for 2 or 3 times this price. And if you've already spent thousands of dollars on your anamorphic HDTV or projection system, your 5.1 or 7.1 speaker array, your THX-certified player and receiver, and your plush theater-style seating and curtains... what's $50 more to personalize it all? Sure, it's an indulgence. But that's what home theater fun is all about.

Bill Hunt
[email protected]

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