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Some Will Buy That DVD Again--If It's Got the Goodies


Pasadena City College student Michael Schneider stares at the back of the new "Reservoir Dogs" 10th anniversary DVD and decides to plop down the $27 for the two-disc set.

Which will strike some as strange since Schneider already owns the movie on DVD.

"But this is a re-release of the film," he explains, "and it has all the extra features I've been waiting for."

This scenario isn't an uncommon one.

Film fanatics and casual movie viewers alike increasingly are placing a high priority on a DVD's supplemental features. A DVD stores considerably more data than a VHS tape or laserdisc, so movie studios are using this space to pack bonus materials onto the disc. Typically, these include audio commentaries by the director and/or other creative personnel, documentaries, deleted scenes and outtakes, cast interviews, trailers and interactive content such as DVD-ROM materials accessible on a personal computer.

Bob Chapek, president of the DVD Entertainment Group, an industry-supported trade coalition, reports that a recent study it conducted showed that 63% of DVD owners say supplemental materials are an important determinant when buying a new movie.

The national study, conducted last spring, also found the preferred DVD special features were deleted scenes and other "cutting-room floor" material, followed by behind-the-scenes documentaries and Web links to additional content.

"When DVDs first debuted [in 1997], consumers enjoyed the fact [that] DVDs didn't require any rewinding or fast-forwarding--but now it's all about the bonus materials," says Chapek.

Chapek is also the president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment, whose "Monsters, Inc." recently sold a record-breaking 5-million DVD units in North America on its first day of release.

In approaching the "Monsters, Inc." DVD, Chapek says, the company recognized there were two different audiences for this film, so the DVD was segregated in two segments. One was the "monster world" designed for families, and the other the "human world" for film zealots. The former includes activities primarily for kids such as video games, collectible "scare cards" and a new short film, "Mike's New Car," commissioned exclusively for the DVD. The "human world" features sections such as outtake sketches, an insider's look at the film's computer animation and a 360-degree virtual tour of Pixar.

But not all consumers will spend the time to click through a DVD's special features.

"Personally, I find the extra stuff on a DVD a waste of time," says Julie Straith, an L.A.-based dental hygienist. "Nobody I know even watches these outtakes or interviews. If it came down to it, I'd much rather pay $10 for a DVD with just the movie than $25 for a DVD with a bunch of things I won't even look at."

Her co-worker Dahlia Greenberg agrees but then adds a caveat: "Well, it depends on the movie."

"I admit it's cool to see how special effects were done, like on 'Blade II,' " Greenberg continues. "My boyfriend and I rented it last weekend and, yes, we watched some of the extra stuff, which was great."

Michael Stradford, vice president of DVD programming and content at Columbia Tri Star Home Entertainment, says Greenberg's sentiment is common. "Yes, this is especially true for big action films such as 'Spider-Man,' 'Men in Black II' or 'XXX,' " he says, "which lend themselves to DVD extras more than, say, some dramas or comedies."

He adds: "If you have something that's pertinent to the film, then it warrants putting on the extra stuff. There's no reason not to include it--remember, with DVDs, no viewer is forced to look at anything they don't want to."

"Spider-Man" is expected to be one of the hottest DVD sellers this coming holiday season. The wide-screen and full-screen versions of the film will be released on Nov. 1 and, naturally, will house a "web" of features, such as historical facts on the 40-year-old comic book wonder, commentary by director Sam Raimi, outtakes and an HBO "Making of Spider-Man" featurette.

One of the latest trends is to re-release the same film on DVD multiple times but with varying supplemental features. These re-releases are usually billed as "special," "ultimate" or, as with "Reservoir Dogs," "anniversary" editions. Other recent examples include "Pearl Harbor," "Memento," "Sixth Sense," "American Pie," "The Evil Dead" and "Highlander."

Chapek says DVDs are often re-released with new supplemental content because it's not unusual for it to take a long while to collect the materials a film fan demands, or, in other cases, a studio must work around a filmmaker's schedule to record commentary or conduct interviews.

New Line's "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is another to enjoy two DVD launches in 2002: A two-disc set debuted in August, while a new four-disc collection is slated for a Nov. 4 release. In an effort to avoid the perception that they were out to fleece fans by selling them the same movie twice, company officials put the word out in August that the second edition was in the works, and they promised that none of the extra materials in the first release would be repeated on the second, which additionally will boast a "director's cut" of the film with an extra 30 minutes of footage.

That's enough to entice Michael Inthear, a freelance sports writer in Buffalo, N.Y., to purchase "Lord of the Rings" again.

"In this case--because now it's the full 3 1/2-hour film [Peter] Jackson wanted to make--it's worth picking up," Inthear reasons. "Who knows--I'll probably sell the first one I bought on EBay anyway."

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