|Steven Spielberg's toys are getting the digital treatment. Finally.
To the surprise of millions of fans and the delight of DVD owners, the director said today that he is releasing some of his stellar films, including Jaws and E.T., later this year on the high-definition, CD-sized digital video format.
Long a hold-out when it came to releasing his classics on DVD, Spielberg is finally relenting with a 25th anniversary collector's edition of his 1975 monster hit Jaws due July 11 from Universal Home Video.
Spielberg's move, sure to boost already-booming DVD player sales, has DVD insiders applauding. "We're very excited. [Spielberg] putting his titles on DVD really says DVD has arrived," says Peter Bracke, editor of dvdfile.com, a Web-based magazine focusing on the video format. "He's the icing on the cake."
The DVD edition of Jaws will include deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, a shark documentary, outtakes, a trivia game and a new digital widescreen picture with a choice of dolby digital or DTS sound. Much of the behind-the-scenes material is taken from Universal's laserdisc version.
Though the movie ranks 13th on the all-time U.S. box-office chart, its video release in 1980 never generated much in sales simply because video hadn't yet taken off. Universal Studios President Craig Kornblau said the studio is treating this summer's release as if it were a brand new release to video/DVD.
Spielberg's other hits for Universal, including E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park (the fourth and fifth biggest moneymakers of all time) will enter the DVD market at a later date, as will Schindler's List, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, likely on a staggered basis.
To date, Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is his only major film to be released on DVD. (He has allowed the inconsequential 1941 and Always also to be released on DVD.)
The Oscar-winning director had planned to release Jurassic Park and other titles on DVD way back in 1997, but worries over piracy halted any action. Bracke says Spielberg was probably wary of DVD because initially it didn't support DTS, the director's preferred sound format, and he likely didn't care to be pushed around by tech companies.
Another likely explanation for Spielberg's digital reluctance: The format was still unproven and too few people owned DVD players then to make it financially worthwhile. Now there are more than 6.5 million homes with players, with projections of 12 million by the end of the year, according to the DVD Entertainment Group, a non-profit trade group. (The impending release of Sony's DVD-equipped PlayStation 2 is the biggest reason for such high forecasts.)
Despite today's breakthough announcement, some Spielberg projects have yet to be slated for DVD release--most notably the Indiana Jones trilogy, on which he and George Lucas (another filmmaker slow to jump on the DVD bandwagon) teamed up. Paramount controls the video rights to the films.
That all may change, however. Lucas confirmed last week that he was working on a Phantom Menace disc and that the prequel, along with the original Star Wars trilogy, could be out on DVD as soon as next year.