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'Jaws' Hungry for DVD Release

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IF NOT NOW, WHEN? While Disney recently decided to release many of its animated ”classics” on DVD (the studio will release favorites like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King at the rate of one per year), other hotly desired films remain unavailable. ”We’re asked every day about certain titles,” says Joe Failla, DVD buyer for Tower Video’s Paramus, N.J., store. ”E.T., Jaws, Close Encounters, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Godfather trilogy, the Star Wars trilogy, Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, Braveheart…” The absence of such films prompts speculation. One rumor: The first Star Wars triptych won’t hit DVD until the second has finished its theatrical run. Steven Feldstein, a spokesman for Fox, dismisses this as ”Internet gossip” but admits that the first three films have yet to be scheduled for a DVD release.

In some cases, say studio execs like Michael Stradford, Columbia TriStar Home Video’s executive director of DVD marketing, DVD releases are withheld for restoration and augmentation with supplementary material. Other studios seem reluctant to enter what is still a limited marketplace: There are more than 90 million VCRs in U.S. households but only about 3 million DVD players. DreamWorks marketing executive Marvin Levy says that was Steven Spielberg’s reason for waiting. ”Steven wanted to see the format promoted by the player manufacturers and more units sold,” Levy explains. ”We’re seeing that now, which is one reason why he permitted the Saving Private Ryan DVD.”

Does that mean DVD collectors can expect Jaws anytime soon? ”We haven’t discussed a specific time line,” says Levy. But when it does come out, it’ll likely swallow the competition.

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