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Studios Drawn to Growing Market at Comic-Con

8 Aug, 2002 By: David Ward

It wasn't quite Hollywood gone south, but the annual Comic-Con comic book convention in San Diego had a distinct movie feel. Studios rolled out major stars and top DVD producers to tout new releases and to stress the importance of comic book characters and readers to the health of the film industry.

Because of their role as early and avid adopters of all types of entertainment, comic book readers have emerged as a major target for studios looking to build an early buzz about a project. This year's four-day Comic-Con featured stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger pushing Terminator 3, Ben Affleck promoting Daredevil and even Titanic director James Cameron offering previews of his holiday release Solaris.

But comic book readers are also home entertainment buffs. Thus, the convention floor was filled with vendors selling discs, while a panel of top DVD producers answered questions about specific films and addressed consumer frustrations with such issues as multiple DVD releases of the same movie and the rise of full-screen or pan-and-scan-only discs.

Charles de Lauzirika, DVD producer of the upcoming Black Hawk Down: Special Edition, gave one example of the creativity that's going into DVD when he said the release would have three commentary tracks, including one featuring four soldiers who survived the real-life event on which the film is based.

Michael Pellerin, producer of the upcoming four-disc The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Special Extended Edition explained the length to which New Line Home Entertainment went to make this DVD title. When making the DVD, Pellerin said he realized, “There was no way it was going to be possible to produce an appropriate edition of this film simply by leaving and taking stuff back to Los Angeles. So we came to New Zealand for four months and literally moved in with the production team and created everything on the DVD from scratch.”

DVD production has become a time-consuming process, especially with special editions.David Prior, producer of the Pearl Harbor Vista series special edition as well as the upcoming Blade II, openly acknowledged that consumers get angry when they purchase an initial DVD release only to find the special edition is being released four months later.

But, he explained, “It has to do with quarterly sales. The studios want discs due out by a particular date, usually Christmas, and nine times out of 10, you don't have enough lead time. So after that you start working on the special edition and hope that people don't get too pissed off when the special edition comes out.”

While they've generally proven very popular with consumers, Prior predicted there might be a slowing of collector's and special editions as studios get more selective. “You have a lot of movies that have special editions that probably don't deserve them,” he said. “There's going to be a paring down, and fewer movies will get special editions.”

DreamWorks DVD producer Mark Atkinson, who's just begun the initial work on the Road to Perdition DVD, said his long-term wish was for home entertainment technology that delivered uncompressed high-definition DVD content to consumers. But he conceded the best hope might be new technology that allows for only a minimal amount of compression. Atkinson also predicted that Hollywood's support for Digital VHS format will be short-lived.

“A couple of the studios are releasing just a few movies on D-VHS, and that's all they will be releasing,” he said.

Despite the multiyear Hollywood flirtation with the Internet as a distribution, marketing and sales tool, none of the DVD producers expressed any enthusiasm for Web-enabled DVD players and discs that would let consumers go online and access additional content or special Web events produced specifically for the home video release.

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