Noted home-video writer Lewis Carroll said it best in Alice in Wonderland: ”Every film is a winner, and all must have special-edition DVDs.” Okay, maybe he didn’t say that, but he certainly would have, had he owned a DVD player and waited in breathless anticipation for Good Burger: The Super-Mega-Titanium Edition.
Nowadays, it seems no film has truly arrived until someone slaps it on a dual-layer disc, digs up its deleted scenes, and throws in a director’s/actor’s/writer’s commentary for good measure. Years ago, when such goodies came only on expensive laserdiscs, special editions were the domain of well-equipped cinemaniacs. But thanks to the industry’s push to mainstream DVD technology, enhanced discs are now far more affordable — and far more common. ”We’re making these for the mass market, not just film buffs,” says Ben Feingold, president of Columbia TriStar Home Video, who adds that, for now, profit is beside the point: ”Our strategy is to continue to excite the consumer about DVD.”
With feature-packed versions of Independence Day, Men in Black, and Terminator 2 coming soon — and such heavy hitters as Tarzan, American Pie, and overall best-seller The Matrix still flying off shelves — there’s plenty to be excited about. But the glut of product also means studios must do more to make their special editions truly ”special.” ”It’s got to be something over and above the commentary-track-and- trailer approach,” says Peter Staddon, senior VP of marketing at Fox Home Entertainment. ”The bar has been raised significantly.”
To meet the challenge, filmmaker cooperation is key. Pulling together the extra elements can be a legal as well as a technical challenge, and the inclusion of backstage interviews and deleted scenes must be cleared with everyone involved. ”There are so many entities involved, especially on something like T2: The Ultimate Edition,” says Michelle Friedman, Artisan’s director of DVD production, who had to chase down Arnold Schwarzenegger for a sign-off on the documentary, T2: 3D, Breaking the Screen Barrier, on loan from Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. ”Universal owns the ride, Columbia TriStar distributed the movie, Artisan has the home-video rights…. I think you can safely say just about every studio was somehow involved in this.”
Director involvement is equally important. Aside from commentary, helmers provide behind-the-scenes footage (David O. Russell and David Fincher are building reputations for their on-set ”home videos”), vital creative input, and the occasional tchotchke (Artisan wants to include a tour of David Lynch’s extensive prop collection on its still-in-the-works Twin Peaks DVD). For the most part, directors are more than willing to cooperate. ”I actually approached them,” says director Ben Younger, whose Boiler Room disc didn’t quite qualify as a ”Platinum Series” DVD (New Line’s term for a special edition), even though it contains commentary, deleted scenes, and the film’s original finale. ”I would call it ‘special,”’ sniffs Younger, ”because it’s got the ending the filmmaker wanted.”