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Year of the Icon

13 Jan, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

For the DVD industry, 2005 was the year of the icon.

The year started — and ended — with musical icons, as Universal Studios Home Entertainment kicked off the year with the release of Ray on DVD in February. By the end of the year, the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line spawned a slew of documentary and music DVD releases on the Man in Black.

Rhino Entertainment released a carefully crafted four-disc package Barbra Streisand: The Television Specials in time for the 2005 holiday season. The set already has gone five times platinum, said Sig Sigworth, VP of video for Rhino. It's a look back at one of the first crossover icons in the entertainment world.

“It is pretty amazing looking back — she was only 24 years old at the first special,” Sigworth said. “She was making all the creative decisions on the shows. You'd be hard-pressed to see that with anyone these days.”

An icon in his own right, Martin Scorsese, directed a four-hour documentary on another music and pop culture icon, Bob Dylan, with No Direction Home, which streeted in September from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment. Early in the year, MGM Home Entertainment released “The Martin Scorsese Film Collection,” a set featuring the revered director's films Raging Bull; New York, New York; The Last Waltz; and Boxcar Bertha.

A&E Home Entertainment's first release in the music DVD market featured one of the most iconic personalities in rock with Paul McCartney in Red Square.

Koch Entertainment flooded the music DVD slate with such titles as Duke Ellington: Swinging at his Best, Count Basie: Swinging at His Best, Sarah Vaughan and Other Jazz Divas and Keith Moon: Who's the Most Dangerous Man Alive?

“Working with products featuring highly visible celebrities has its benefits,” said Dan Gurlitz, VP of Koch Entertainment Distribution. “Such personalities remain high in the consumer consciousness in an ongoing fashion.”

A number of Rat Pack releases came out last year from several suppliers. Koch had The Rat Pack Sings: Frank, Sammy & Dean and The Dean Martin Collection. Kultur Entertainment released “The Rat Pack Gift Set,” which includes the DVDs Frank Sinatra: The Man and the Myth, Sammy Davis Jr.: One Cool Cat and Dean Martin: The One and the Only.

Martin's longtime comedy partner Jerry Lewis got the iconic DVD treatment from Paramount with The “Legendary Jerry” Collection, featuring such titles as The Ladies Man, Cinderfella, The Disorderly Orderly and the DVD debut of the original The Nutty Professor.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment paid homage to a legend in the action genre with the “Bruce Lee Ultimate Collection,” released in October. The set featured The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Game of Death and Game of Death II.Both MGM and Warner Home Video honored another action icon, Steve McQueen, with special big-box releases in 2005. MGM's “The Steve McQueen Collection” included The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crowne Affair and Junior Bonner. Warner's “Essential Steve McQueen Collection” included the DVD debut of Bullitt as well as The Getaway, The Cincinnati Kid, Papillion, Tom Horn and Never So Few.

Warner was the most prolific supplier of iconic DVD collections. Throughout the spring and summer, Warner released multidisc sets for classic stars including “The Bette Davis Collection,” “The Joan Crawford Collection,” “The Complete James Dean Collection,” “The Barbra Streisand Collection,” “The Doris Day Collection,” “Errol Flynn: The Signature Collection,” “Garbo: The Signature Collection,” “Astaire & Rogers Collection: Volume 1” and “The John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection.”

It's gratifying to work on releases like these and see the consumer response they get, said George Feltenstein, SVP of theatrical catalog for Warner, who just last week received the William K. Everson Award for Film History from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures for his film preservation work.

Warner is committed to restoring and preserving films from its vast library, Feltenstein said, adding that more iconic releases will come over the next two years.

“The enduring popularity of these true classics is what really makes it work,” he said.

Warner tries to include only titles previously unreleased on DVD in its “Signature Collection,” and all of the 2005 releases were “fresh and brand new,” Feltenstein said.

Meanwhile, two female pop-culture icons made their first forays into DVD this year with Paramount's release of The Oprah Winfrey Show: 20th Anniversary Collection and “The Martha Stewart Holiday Gift Set” from Warner, which included several selections with holiday recipes and decorating tips from the homemaking diva.

Several months before Warner Bros.' Good Night, and Good Luck hit theaters, A&E Home Entertainment released “The Edward R. Murrow Collection” in anticipation of increased interest in the broadcast news icon. The four-disc set includes a biographical timeline of Murrow's career with interviews with people he influenced such as Ted Koppel, Barbara Walters and Dan Rather. Another disc includes episodes from Murrow's “See It Now” series and another focuses on the broadcaster's famous battle of wills with Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

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