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Welcome to DVDeNZ
for the end of an era FINAL POSTING
Thanks Richard it's been an exciting few years!


WALLS OF NEWS

news and comment on the world of DVD by Richard Walls

The Final Posting
Wednesday 31 May 2006


Eight years ago, movies on the shiny disc were something of a curiosity. Like VHS before it, the new format - then known as the Digital Versatile Disc - had an uncertain start as differing formats fought for industry acceptance.

DVD was not fully embraced by the movie industry until DreamWorks, the last of the major American movie studios to hold out, signed up in September 1998. Within six months, over 1400 titles were released with Warner's, Columbia Tri-Star and MGM leading the way.

In 1999, industry sources confidently predicted that DVD would replace VHS by 2005 as the major source of recorded video movies.

What they had not foreseen was that "movies on the shiny disc' would have appeal to a far, far wider market than that enjoyed by the humble video tape.

By 2002 - just a year after the first posting on 'The Wall' - those predictions were hopelessly out of date. DVD had become the fastest growing consumer electronic product in history. Warner were talking of selling DVD's in the same way as magazines and, apparently, at much the same prices.

Sales of DVD players rocketed to new levels and prices dropped dramatically with basic machines available for under NZ$100.

The release of movie titles on DVD around the world became a virtual avalanche. Studios moved up the release of recent box office hits. Many are now released within three months of their movie premiere and the window is shortening.

Back catalogue releases have poured on to the market as studios realise the potential revenue that is locked in the vaults holding their movie libraries.

While many of the early DVD releases offered a movie exactly as it was produced for cinema screening, on-disc extras such as a commentary by the director and deleted scenes have become 'the norm' and Collector's or Special Editions carry even more.

The first year of the new millennium saw the first of special releases that dramatically illustrate just how directors can use DVD to enhance their work for mass appreciation. The two-disc set of BOOGIE NIGHTS in the New Line Platinum Series is in a form that could only have been dreamed of by director Paul Thomas Anderson when he first made the movie in 1997.

Columbia's Ultimate Limited Series was launched with MEN IN BLACK at the same time as it released a collector's edition of the same movie. Artisan brought out TERMINATOR 2 -JUDGEMENT DAY, one of the most successful blockbusters of all time, on a stunning DVD packed with special features.

INDIANA JONES and STAR WARS became the most eagerly awaited eagerly awaited releases on DVD.

Steven Spielberg reintroduced INDIANA JONES to a patiently waiting worldwide audience in 2003 but George Lucas was not to be rushed. His publicly expressed wish was to give the Star Wars movies the treatment he believed they deserved. THE STAR WARS TRILOGY made it to the market in September
2004. The only disappointment for purists was Lucas' refusal to include the original cinema releases but, he was consistently adamant from the outset, that the 1997 movies (that form the trilogy on DVD) were the ones he originally intended to make, and which technology only made possible twenty years or so after their first release.
Just five years after the major Hollywood studios embraced it, it could fairly be said that DVD had not only changed the way we watch movies, but the way top directors make them. Indeed many now shoot a version for DVD as well as for the cinema.

In an interview with Eddy Friedfeld in 'The New York Post' (5.11.2000), Bryan Singer, director of The Usual Suspects and X-Men said, "You definitely think about the DVD from the moment you start shooting the theatrical film. The DVD is a new and different piece of work." Singer cited as an example
five scenes that were deleted from X-Men. The clips were not discarded but rather incorporated on a DVD take to make what is, essentially, a different movie. "There are certain scenes that take away from the theatrical movie which, when you see them on the DVD, you will understand why," said Singer.

Legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola - whose wife created Heart of Darkness to document Coppola's directing of Apocalypse Now - saw DVD as "putting more control in the hands of the artist.

"There is always the pressure from the studios to make movies shorter. The new technologies offer the ability to create cinema more on the level of music, totally free, where you can put forth anything you can dream up." Coppola set up a DVD lab at American Zoetrope, the studio he co-founded in
1969 with George Lucas. "Future DVD's will be even more interactive," he said correctly predicting the future, "and you can see what a film is like before it is whittled down."

It was to fall to New Zealand director, Peter Jackson, to finally unleash the potential of "the shiny disc" with the release of The Extended Versions of The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy.

DVD has also boosted many classic movies. The 2-disc Special Edition of Casablanca - one of the most viewed movies of all time - includes documentary footage and outtakes; My Fair Lady offers alternate Audrey Hepburn vocal tracks; and The Manchurian Candidate has comments from director John Frankenheimer about a key scene in which Frank Sinatra delivered an intense performance, only to learn that the camera had been out of focus.

The Thirtynine Steps, The Third Man and Brief Encounter are just three classic movies released by The Criterion Collection, who specialise in frame-by-frame restoration of older movies and are undoubtedly pioneers in this field. They have also released special editions of more recent movies
such as Robocop and The Royal Tenebaums. Given all this, it is hard to believe that it was just two decades ago that the Hollywood studios fought long and hard to prevent the advent of home
video and VCR's.

Fortunately for those of us interested in movies and, in particularly, collecting them to watch at home - they lost.

Today the studios receive substantially more revenue from video releases than at the cinema box office - almost by a factor of three to one, maybe more.

In less than a decade, the product has gone from a tentatively but exciting new technological development to an undoubtedly mainstream product.

Players no longer need to 'be chipped' so that they can play DVD's with differing codes. We no longer have to send to the US for the latest releases with many of the blockbusters simultaneously released on a worldwide basis - or nearly so.

Promotions and differing price points are now commonplace, more so in the specialist stores than the chains.

There are any number of movie and DVD news and review sites on the internet that provide access to a wealth of information.

My pick of them - for the shiny disc: Glenn Erickson's DVD Savant at DVD Talk (www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant); DVD Verdict (www.dvdverdict.com) and Michael D's DVD - Region 4 (www.michaeldvd.com.au). Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver (www.dvdbeaver.com) not only lists titles of interest available all over the globe and links to reviews of classic and back catalogue releases, but offers visual and technical comparisons of what each release offers 'the shiny disc'. I do not know where he gets the time to do it all!

For movies: the seemingly indefatigable Londoner, Rich Clein at Shadows-On-The-Wall (www.shadowsonthewall.co.uk), manages to view and write on 10-14 movies a week; across 'the ditch' in Australia, Film Ink (www.filmink.com.au) has some of the best writers around led by the talented
Erin Free; and then there are the multi-review sites Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com) and Metacritics (www.metacritic.com). If it is Asian action stuff you are after then nothing tops Kung Fu Cinema (www.kungfucinema.com) and Dragon's Den (www.dragonsdenco.uk).

That wee selection only touches the surface. I access many others on a regular basis as testified by the 400 or so links in my DVD Favorites Folder . broken down into categories for ease of reference!

"The Wall" started life as an irregular newsletter to members of the NZDVD Group recording some of the bits and pieces I came across while wandering around the internet and which, I thought, might interest my fellow members. This prompted Tery to ask me if I would like to write a regular column for
his newly conceived web site, DVDeNZ.

The first posting on 'The Wall' was in the first week of August 2001. In addition to sharing with you the bits and pieces from my wanderings around the internet, 'The Wall' has campaigned for a better deal in the timing and scale of releases and for pricing points that compare with the US and, more
particularly with Australia.

By and large, we seem to have achieved that!

And so, with "the shiny disc" now mainstream, DVDeNZ and 'The Wall' have run their course.

High definition DVD has made its appearance in the US but views on its reach and potential are highly speculative. My guess is that if it survives in either of the two competing formats, it will sit as a premium product alongside what we have now. To pick up on the Warner analogy, there are glossy magazines and not-so-glossy magazines and any number of price points. We have 'vanilla' (movie only DVD's) and special editions sometimes released side-by-side. And most back catalogue material will not give the studios an economic a return on Hi-Def.

A big 'Thank You' to those who have emailed and an even bigger thank you - I am certain on behalf of you all - to Tery for conceiving DVDeNZ and for maintaining the website, not forgetting the Newsletter that issued over the last two years. Good luck for the future, Tery!

If I summed it all up, the shiny disc has enabled me to discover movies that I would otherwise have missed. Many have been mentioned over the five years; many will not be released here and are only turned up after searching the internet.

So, it seems appropriate to mention the last wee gem discovered just before this update - the John Cassavetes directed Gloria starring the marvellous Gena Rowlands (Cassavete's wife) in what Glenn Erickson on DVD Savant called "an excuse to play James Cagney, snarling and glaring her way through
the ranks of Mafia crooks." Glenn didn't much like John Adames, who played Phil, the child character opposite Gloria ("I'm saving your life, stupid" says Rowlands when he once again gets difficult) but which I - and those who viewed it with me - found a real hoot once we got used to the reversal of
the gender roles. Taschen picked Gloria as one of the best movies of the 80's - and it undoubtedly is. I would never have met Gloria if not for DVD Savant and, of course, 'the shiny disc'. And I had to buy it from the US as it has not been released in region 4 and is unlikely too - at least, not in
the near future!! This says it all really. My first shiny disc carried LA Confidential, brought back from the US by sister-in-law a long before it released in New Zealand. It still rates in my Top Twenty Films Of All Time. Now, eight years after I first encountered 'the shiny disc', my all-time favourite (although not necessarily top movie), the stunning 1935 San Francisco releases (in region 1) in June!

The anticipation continues!

Auld Lang Syne!

Richard