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UPDATE: Oscar-Lauded Titles on the Way to Video

27 Mar, 2003 By: Joan Villa

Hollywood razzle-dazzle will jump from the Academy Awards into stores as best picture winner Chicago dances onto video Aug. 19, and The Hours, which garnered Nicole Kidman a best actress award, is set for a special collector's edition DVD June 24.

Chicago, starring Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger, also took best supporting actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones and four other Oscars at Hollywood ceremonies last week. The musical will be priced at $29.99 for the two-disc DVD and $24.99 for VHS; prebook is July 8. Miramax, releasing through Buena Vista Home Entertainment (BVHE), has not officially finalized bonus features for the two-disc set, but is expected to include song-and-dance scenes cut from the film along with audio commentary and other featurettes.

Paramount Home Entertainment assembled myriad extras for The Hours (prebook May 13 for DVD; June 2 for the rental-priced VHS), including a rare commentary track with the three lead actresses: Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman. The DVD will also have commentary with director Stephen Daldry and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham, along with five featurettes: “Filmmakers Introduction,” “Three Women,” “The Mind and Times of Virginia Woolf, “The Music of The Hours,” and “The Lives of Mrs. Dalloway.” The DVD has a $19.95 MAP.

Miramax's Gangs of New York was also announced for VHS ($24.99) and two-disc DVD ($29.99) release July 1 from BVHE. It prebooks May 20 for DVD and June 3 for VHS. In one of the surprises of the evening, director Martin Scorsese's epic tale of struggle between Irish immigrants in 1860s New York was nominated for 10 awards but won none.

Frida, the tale of fiery Mexican artist Frida Kahlo that took home two statuettes for makeup and original score, will also get the two-disc DVD treatment from Buena Vista June 10 at $29.99. The cassette will be rental-priced. It prebooks April 29 for DVD and May 13 for VHS.

Plans for a home video release of surprise three-Oscar winner The Pianist were due to be unveiled this week from Universal Studios Home Video. The Pianist won best director for Roman Polanski and best actor for a shocked Adrien Brody, who swept presenter Halle Berry off her feet with a big kiss before accepting the award with a tasteful appeal for peace “whether you believe in Allah or God.”

All in all, retailers are optimistic that some titles will be big winners on video, especially less-seen surprises like this year's best animated film, Spirited Away, set for April 15 release by Buena Vista (the title also was revived in theaters) and The Pianist.
“We always look at the Academy Awards as a nice shot in the arm for the video business,” said Ted Engen, president of the 2,000-store Video Buyers Group based outside of Minneapolis. Nonetheless, he watched the ceremonies with concern that controversial acceptance speeches expressing views on the current war with Iraq would dampen a film's reception on video.

“Typically in the past we find movies that have controversy around them tend to perform extremely well, but this is a completely different mood in the country, and our objective is to stay as neutral as possible,” he said.

The majority of performers who mentioned the war “did so on a positive note,” Engen said. But Michael Moore's acceptance speech for best documentary, Bowling for Columbine, criticized President Bush and opposed the war. It was received with a combination of applause and booing, which may not play well in the video store when MGM Home Entertainment puts the title -- originally announced for April 22 and then cancelled -- back on its home video release slate.

“I will say right now it has me second-guessing Bowling for Columbine,” he said. “I'm trying to get a reaction from our stores, but I have a strong feeling that the numbers for Columbine we were looking at carrying probably will evaporate. I have a strong feeling [Moore's speech] will affect that film and how it performs on video.”

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