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DVD's Alternate Universe

22 Sep, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold



DVD marketers are making ends meet.

More and more DVDs are being prepared with one, two or even more alternate endings — which used to be end up on the cutting room floor, but now are being put onto DVDs to give consumers more reason to buy.

“An alternate ending is a great way to provide added value because it brings film fans into the creative process,” said Ken Graffeo, EVP of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, which Oct. 4 will release The Interpreter on DVD with two endings, one shown theatrically and the other premiering on the DVD.

“[Director] Sydney Pollack had actually shot two different conclusions to the film, but obviously only one could make it into the theatrical version,” Graffeo said. “So he was very supportive of their inclusion on the disc.”

Universal previously offered viewers an alternate ending on The Bourne Identity DVD. The studio's internal research identified alternate endings as consumers' favorite bonus feature.

Universal is hardly alone. New Line Home Entertainment has routinely offered alternate endings on its DVDs whenever they're available, going back to the first “Austin Powers” movie in the late 1990s. Sometimes it's done out of the gate; other times, alternate endings pop up years later on a special-edition DVD.

“It differentiates the DVD experience from the theatrical experience,” said New Line EVP Matt Lasorsa. “It also puts the viewer in control and piques people's curiosity and interest. Before, when you heard there was an alternate ending in which, say the character dies, you could only read about it. Now, with DVD, we have the opportunity to bring that to the consumer.”

On the Final Destination DVD, Lasorsa said, New Line not only tacked on an alternate ending but also created a 15-minute featurette about the test screening and the poor audience reaction that led to that ending being scrapped.

“It provides an inside look at how studios test movies,” Lasorsa said.

Steve Beeks agreed. The president of Lions Gate Entertainment said a number of different endings were filmed for the thriller Godsend, and two of them made their way onto the DVD.

“It enriches and enhances the experience for viewers, giving them something they did not see in the theater,” he said.

The upcoming release of House of D (Oct. 4) also comes with an alternate ending that continues to tell the story of the women's prison that was torn down and replaced with a beautiful garden. David Duchovny's character, Tom Warshaw, comes back to visit Robin Williams' character, Pappass, and the two share their remembrances.

Beeks promises more alternate endings on Lions Gate DVDs in the future.

“I would say that any time an alternate ending exists, we will give serious consideration to putting it on the DVD,” he said. “In our research, alternate endings consistently score at No. 1 in terms of consumer preference.”

Even small suppliers are getting in on the action. Palm Pictures on Nov. 8 will release Cr?nicas, starring John Leguizamo, with two endings.

Peter Staddon, EVP of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, said alternate endings “give a little more scope” to movies and help DVDs stand out.

Fox DVDs of Joyride and Hide & Seek each came with four alternate endings, while Alien vs. Predator came with an alternate beginning.

Fever Pitch, released earlier this month, came in two versions — one with the regular theatrical and a special collector's edition, aimed at Boston Red Sox fans, with several more minutes from the film-ending scene in which the Red Sox win the World Series.

“When this miracle happened and Boston really did win the World Series, we figured we had better work that into the story,” said Fever Pitch co-director Bobby Farrelly. “But by the time we got to the end of the movie, we really felt it was time to wrap it up — we were in that dangerous area where everybody already knows what's going to happen and we had to keep it short, otherwise we'd be preaching to the choir.”

But when it came time to produce the DVD, Farrelly said, it was decided to give Red Sox fans the chance to see several more minutes of their team's win, as a DVD option.

“We were showing real history,” he said.

Farrelly likes the fact that DVD marketers are keen on providing alternate endings on DVDs.

“I think the hardest thing in the world about making a movie is to satisfactorily end it,” he said. “When we make our movies, we almost always have a couple of different endings in mind, and it's informative to show the audience the different direction you might have gone.”

On Dumb and Dumber, Farrelly said, he and co-director Peter Farrelly, his brother, shot five different endings before settling on the closing scene in which Lloyd and Harry pass up a chance to board a bus filled with bikini-clad young women. The alternates, including one in which the two turn down a cushy job, “just didn't work,” Farrelly said. “They were amusing, but left the audience a little unsatisfied.”

On There's Something About Mary, Farrelly said, “he [Ted] was going to get hit by a bus after all he'd been through, but it wasn't good at all so we went back to a traditional happy ending.”

Neither ending made it onto DVD — at least, not yet.

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