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THE MORNING BUZZ: DVD Adoption Presents Difficult Choices For Studios

19 Feb, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

As DVD has exploded, studios are facing a bit of a dilemma in serving both the early movie buff fans of DVD and the new mainstream audience for the format.

The tension manifests itself in the full-screen/widescreen debate with studios sometimes offering both versions on separate DVDs to satisfy movies buffs, who prefer widescreen versions they feel more closely match the theatrical experience, and the newer, more mainstream viewers, who like the picture to fill the whole TV screen. This debate came to the fore with Warner Home Video's recent releases of two family films originally planned as full-frame editions only, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Cats and Dogs. After howls from DVD buffs, both were released in widescreen editions as well.

DVD early adopters and family audiences also have different tastes with regard to the extras offered on DVD. Early adopter-types seem to prefer the "making-of" features that reveal secrets behind the special effects wizardry and the filmmakers'technique. Meanwhile, the family audience prefers games and clever interactive extras. This came up recently when Warner announced DVD plans for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Peter Bracke, editor of DVDfile.com, told Video Store Magazine adult DVD fans (I affectionately call them the DVD Geeks) were miffed that the special features, which included lots of interactive games like a self-guided tour of the wizardry school, are too kid-oriented.

You only have to watch a kid interact with a DVD to see that they love animated menus and games. My 3 year old takes great delight in choosing between "cats" and "dogs" on the menu each time she begins the Cats and Dogs DVD. One time she'll pick "cats" and the next she'll choose "dogs." The choice merely determines what type of animated menu pops up, one with felines or one with canines. This feature is maybe amusing once for adults, but it provides endless entertainment for a 3 year old. Is it worth the memory space on the disc? A DVD buff might say no, but family viewers would likely say yes.

With only limited space on a DVD, studios have to make choices that may not satisfy every viewer. Even making the decision to release two different DVD SKUs can prompt controversy. Retailers have complained to us that customers sometimes mistakenly buy the wrong version (either widescreen or full-frame) and have to bring it back.

This is a subject on which I frankly pity the studios. It's hard to satisfy everyone, and, unlike VHS cassettes, which had their own widescreen/full-screen controversies, DVDs offer more and, therefore, provide more opportunities for complaints.

Do your customers prefer full-frame or widescreen movies? Why? Tell us here.

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