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Lionsgate Plumbs Blu-ray Limits

6 Dec, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Lionsgate Dec. 26 is pulling out the stops with horror film The Descent — the Santa Monica, Calif.-based mini-major's first dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray Disc release.

The 2005 thriller about a group of female cave explorers who become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators grossed about $26 million at the box office.

Warner Home Video and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released 50GB Blu-ray titles in October, and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released a high-capacity disc in November. Buena Vista Worldwide Home Entertainment will bow its first 50GB title Dec. 13.

The Descent 50GB Blu-ray disc features both the theatrical and unrated versions for $39.99. Same day DVD releases in unrated widescreen, unrated full-screen and ‘R'-rated full-screen retail for $28.98 each.

Lionsgate Jan. 9 simultaneously releases 50GB Blu-ray ($39.99) and DVD ($28.98) versions of Crank, followed by 25GB Blu-ray ($39.99) and DVD ($28.98) versions of Employee of the Month (Jan. 16) and unrated versions of Saw II and III on 25GB Blu-ray discs (Jan. 23) at $39.99 each.

The third installment to the $400 million “Saw” franchise streets the same day in both unrated and rated DVD editions (widescreen and full-screen) at $29.95 each.

Unique to the Blu-ray releases are enhanced menu graphics and a user interface that allows the viewer to switch between versions and experience bonus material without leaving the feature film.

“The extraordinary part of Blu-ray technology is that you can seamlessly move from one version to the next,” said Ron Schwartz, GM and EVP of Lionsgate. “You can opt in and opt out by using the pop-up menu system.”

He said the expanded capacity allows studios to release multiple screen versions of a title on one disc. Schwartz said the decision to release a film in 25GB or 50GB depends on the type of picture and the amount of available material.

The Descent Blu-ray release features 6.1 PCM audio (uncompressed) in addition to requisite (DVD included) director and crew commentaries (rated and unrated), re-mastered and deleted scenes, outtakes, alternate endings, and cast and crew biographies. Descent Blu-ray extras include “Caving: A High Definition Experience,” which takes a first-person look at both the beautiful and claustrophobic confines of underground caves.

Employee added Blu-ray features including “The Beauty of Bulk,” “Men of Super Club” and “On Set Shenanigans.” “At Work With Lon (actor Andy Dick ‘gets into' his character)” appears on both the Blu-ray and DVD releases.

Crank 50GB Blu-ray bonus material — presented in 1080p resolution — includes “Shooting Crank,” “The Stunts of Crank” and “Pushing Crank,” among other features.

Saw II Blu-ray release “The Story Behind the Story” (what inspired the “Saw” trilogy), “The Scott Tibbs Documentary”; a tribute to producer Gregg Hoffman, who died unexpectedly shortly after the release of Saw II; and audio commentaries with director Darren Lynn Bousman and writers/executive producers Leigh Whannell and James Wan.

Saw III bonus material (also available on DVD) includes audio commentaries with director Darren Lynn Bousman and writers/executive producers Whannell and Wan; “The Props of Saw III”; “The Details of Death: The Traps of Saw III”; and “Darren's Diary: Anatomy of a Director.” Saw III Blu-ray-only extras include “Amanda: Evolution of a Killer” and “The Writing of Saw III.”

Despite the apparent plethora of “Saw” material, Lionsgate opted to release The Descent and Crank on 50GB largely due to timing issues.

Schwartz said the acquisition of Descent at Cannes almost two years ago gave the studio more time to compile material for the 50GB release compared to Saw II and III, which released within a year of each other.

“It gave us more time to make it into an event piece of programming,” Schwartz said.

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