Thursday, March 30, 2006

Kong DVD has lots of stuff on it

From USATODAY, "Peter Jackson's remake of the 1933 classic cost $207 million and took in more than $217.9 million in North American theaters, but Kong did not scale the heights that box-office prognosticators had expected. It ended up the fifth-highest-grossing film of the year; No. 1 was Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, with $380 million. (Related story: Can't get enough Kong?)

Tuesday, Kong faces another test: How mighty it will be on DVD.

The power of blockbuster movies on DVD appears to be waning. In 2004, the 20 top-selling DVDs made 72% more than they did in theaters, according to Video Business Research. That dropped to 39% for the top 20 top sellers of 2005.

To compare individual titles, 2004's No. 1 title, Shrek 2, has sold more than 18 million copies vs. 15.5 million for 2005's top DVD, The Incredibles, says Video Business Research.

"The top titles today sell many fewer copies than they did five or six years ago," says Paul Sweeting, editor at large for Video Business trade magazine. "The days of selling 20 million copies of something is probably gone."

Sweeting says he expects Kong to sell 8 million to 10 million copies on DVD, matching and perhaps surpassing its U.S. ticket sales. Universal is putting the DVD out in two versions: a $30 single disc with just the film, and a $31 two-disc version with three hours of bonus features. (At retail, the two-disc edition is selling for $20-$23, the single-disc version for $14-$16.)

"Kong might very well do better on DVD," says Dan Vancini, DVD editor for, where both Kong DVDs have been among the top sellers for the past week. "Everyone in the industry will be watching it closely" to see if it's an indication of changing movie-viewing habits.

Says Michael Regina, editor in chief of "Like George Lucas said, there's not going to be anything like the blockbusters anymore because there are so many outlets to get entertainment. It's a lot more diverse and it's hard to get everybody in the seats. They say, 'I'll wait for the DVD or download it.' "

In fact, Kong will be among the first movies available for download purchase on Universal's new on-demand service launching next month in the United Kingdom.

Regardless of Kong's reception, Jackson says he is satisfied with his film. "The King Kong I made is the King Kong I wanted to see," he says. "You set out to make a film you want to see yourself and you hope people share your sensibility."

Secret stuff yet to come

Movie fans will have several opportunities to go bananas over King Kong this year.

The two-disc collector's edition out today (Universal, $31) has nearly three hours of video diaries, plus features on Kong's home, Skull Island, and New York in the '30s.

But you won't see any deleted scenes or added footage. Director Peter Jackson is saving that for an extended cut of the film to be released on DVD later this year and will include a new making-of documentary.

"In the production diaries we showed a certain amount, but the real secret stuff is for later on," he says. "There are sequences that we ended up taking out for pacing and length."

Jackson's next project takes him from Skull Island to bones. He'll direct the movie version of the best seller The Lovely Bones."


JPX said...

Can't get enough 'Kong?'
By Mike Snider, USA TODAY
Peter Jackson's connection to King Kong is a strong one.

Andy Serkis and Naomi Watts get pointers from Peter Jackson on the set of King Kong.
Universal Pictures

The original 1933 Kong inspired the young Jackson's interest in moviemaking. At 12, he made a short home movie remake of the classic. After Jackson's success at bringing The Lord of the Rings to film, Universal Studios gave him the opportunity to remake Kong. (Related story: Will Kong be DVD king?)

Throughout the three and a half hours of DVD extras it's obvious that making Kong was a labor of love for Jackson. One of the DVD diaries shows Jackson beaming when movie memorabilia collector Bob Burns visits the set with the original Kong model used by stop motion animation pioneer Willis O'Brien.

"It was like a real movie star had arrived, a sort of 90-year-old Kong as an ancient old movie star," Jackson says. "He was taken around and people flocked to see him or touch him. For a King Kong fan, there is something incredibly spiritual about being in proximity to this piece of machine steel."

Jackson and the crew even took time to animate the skeleton (all the padding and fur had worn off to reveal the metal armature underneath). "We gave him a bit of an overhaul and lube job and a nice piece of animation," says Jackson, who has an extensive Kong collection of his own. "That was a genuine geek-out moment."

More from the extras:

Post-production diaries. Originally posted on the website, these 48 video clips offer unprecedented access to the moviemaking process. At the outset of making Kong, the website got permission from Jackson to be on the set and interviewed him. "The very first one that happened was relatively simple and it was just somebody pointing a camera at me and me saying hi to the fans," Jackson says. "They showed me that before they put it out on the net and I thought why not make these diaries more elaborate."

The first wave of diaries (54 in all, nearly four hours total) were released as the two-DVD set Peter Jackson's King Kong Production Diaries (Universal, $40) the day before Kong opened in theaters Dec. 13.

Viewed in one sitting, the new set of diaries (two hours, 44 minutes) illustrate the massive undertaking that Kong was. "It is a juggernaut that you are clinging onto that is flying at immense speed," says Richard Taylor, supervisor of Weta Workshop, which created the special effects for Kong. "I tend to liken our facility (to be) more like a malleable ball of clay that can be shifted and moved on a daily basis to accommodate the abundance of ideas that flow from Peter's mind. We find it incredibly uplifting and very, very inspirational because you are able to develop and create at a quick turnaround the things that Peter's aiming for."

Skull Island — A Natural History. This Discovery Channel-like mockumentary posits the island home of Kong as a real place and describes its flora and fauna. "This is an island possessing of massive creatures and ravines and mountains," Taylor says. When the cast "enters the island they are entering a horror show."

Kong's New York, 1933. Real historians join with Jackson in describing Depression-era New York and the aspects of that time period the filmmakers wanted to bring across in the film. "We go into the depression, prohibition, vaudeville, the skyscraper boom and the art deco movement, all this stuff that is in the movie and spent a tremendous amount of time getting it right." says Michael Pellerin, who produced the DVD extras on Kong and on the Lord of the Rings DVDs.

Jackson emerges as the star of the DVD in part because he's such a fanboy himself. "I'm the sort of guy when I buy DVDs of other people's films I watch because I am a geek. I am the fan," he says. "I think (DVDs) are a wonderful medium because they have allowed a sort of communication between the filmmaker and the fans to exist beyond the film."

Octopunk said...

They should do an outtake reel that suggests there actually was a giant ape on set. He could eat Naomi Watts's stand-in.

I don't know why anyone would work as a stand-in after seeing how badly it went for Daffy Duck.