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THE MORNING BUZZ: DVD Is Evolving Into a New Art Form

28 Mar, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

The Aug. 6 launch of New Line Home Entertainment's first home video release of The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring is a full two-disc package including the original ‘PG-13' theatrical version and two hours of special features, priced at $29.95. This was somewhat of a surprise to me, albeit a pleasant one. When we first reported on the possibility of a two-stage release for The Lord of the Rings, I expected more of a "vanilla" version of the movie, followed later by the "real" DVD package of features and other extras.

What we learned this week, of course, is that New Line and director Peter Jackson have developed a huge amount of additional material from the movie for DVD use, much of it shot and edited expressly for home video. Their commitment means that the initial Aug. 6 release is far from vanilla and includes 15 featurettes with interviews with cast members and information on Middle-earth, three in-depth "making of" programs revealing "secrets behind the production," the Enya "May it Be" music video, a 10-minute preview of The Two Towers coming to the big screen this Dec. 18, a preview of the Electronic Arts' video game The Two Towers, original trailers and TV spots and other content. The home video will be released in both widescreen and full screen formats.

What is very exciting to me is the groundbreaking effort to use the DVD platform as the genesis for the creation of a special "extended edition" (among an array of other features on four discs) slated to street Nov. 12. It's not just that there will be more than 30 minutes of previously unseen footage in this version (a glorified director's cut), but that it is truly a new film with 30 minutes of new scenes and music edited into the narrative to create a fuller, richer movie for the serious fan. Many of the scenes were shot with the DVD in mind and, in fact, Jackson is back in New Zealand shooting additional footage and recording new music for the extended edition. (The possible ‘R' rating that may be attached to the "extended edition" would be the result of a graphic, climactic battle scene near the end of the movie.)

DVD, with its capacity for greater storage, programmability and interactivity, is clearly on the cusp of developing into an art form all its own. DVD programming has become more than just an extension of the home video movie marketing business, it is evolving into a legitimate creative force in entertainment. The Lord of the Rings may be the most dramatic example of this yet, but other properties in the future, especially mega-sequal properties like Harry Potter, may draw from New Line's example -- which not only creates a five-month marketing event leading up to the next movie, but keeps the DVD perceived value high in consumers' minds and thus helps to keep it from becoming just another commodity product platform delivering movies. It's delivering a truly new entertainment experience and that can only be a great thing for the home video business.

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