2001 is already over? Crazy.
2001 was quite a year for the DVD format. DVDs are now heavily outweighing their inferior VHS counterparts, along with a good portion of the classic movies of the past finally being digitally restored and remastered to the DVD format. Let’s take a closer look at some of the year’s big events.
It’s about time!
Finally, many of the classic movies we’ve grown to love over the years have been transferred to DVD. Most notably, we have Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, getting its own four disc DVD box set along with newly remastered video and sound. Perhaps in 2002 we will be allowed to purchase Godfather I, II, and III separately? Next, we had the first ever Star Wars to DVD release, even though it was only the Phantom Menace, it was good to see that George Lucas is finally is coming off his anti-DVD high horse and at least releasing the new movies to DVD before the first three episodes are finished. Heck, the DVD Cyber Center even got invited to the Skywalker Ranch to check the Phantom Menace DVD out before it hit the streets. Chalked full of a ton of supplemental material and an excellent THX Surround EX audio track, the Phantom Menace was one of the best DVD releases of the year; although the video transfer could have been better (note to George Lucas: easy on the edge enhancement). Lucasfilm was also nice enough to release Willow to DVD in a nice special edition version.
Also just in time for this blockbuster year for DVD sales were classics like Citizen Kane, getting a stunning remaster (another of the year’s best DVD), Laurence of Arabia, Disney’s Snow White, Forrest Gump, a nice director’s cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Superman, Big Trouble in Little China, and a plethora of stunning releases of classics to the Criterion Collection (Rebecca, 8 1/2, etc.). Many classics are still missing in action; most notably the Back to the Future trilogy, the Indiana Jones series, E.T., Grease, Schindler’s List, and of course, Star Wars (which supposedly will not be released until episode three is finished... 2006???).
Emergence of Pan & Scan and Widescreen side by side
Much to the dismay of DVD purists like myself, 2001 was a big year for pan and scan and full frame releases alongside the preferred widescreen versions of the more blockbuster movies of the year. Movies that come to mind that got treatment such as this were the Mummy Returns, Jurassic Park 3, Shreck, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and the 30th anniversary edition of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (which actually did not initially have a widescreen release until a huge petition convinced Warner otherwise). With the huge influx of VHS users switching over to the extremely inexpensive (compared to years past) DVD arena, more and more people are starting to expect their entire screen to be filled, ala VHS, and therefore studios, in an effort to make everyone content, are beginning this trend of pan and scan releases. Blockbuster video in particular has been a huge barometer of this activity, holding very few (in my experience) widescreen releases when there is a full screen counterpart. We can only hope people will come away from the dark side of non OAR presentations allowing for widescreen releases to continue being the standard release format in 2002 and beyond.
TV Series to DVD
2001 was also a big year for studios releasing complete seasons of TV shows to the DVD format. Probably one of the biggest of these releases was the Simpsons, giving us the complete first season of America’s favorite TV family. We also got the releases of HBO’s Sopranos, Stargate SG-1, Showtime’s Queer as Folk, Twin Peaks, the old Planet of the Apes TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, along with the continuation of Fox’s brilliant X-Files season boxes (Fox will also release M*A*S*H - Season 1 in early 2002). Look for this trend of TV shows to DVD to continue in the future.
New Sound Formats
2001 was also a relatively big year for how you hear your favorite DVDs; new formats emerged along with DTS being a more standard audio format. We got the aforementioned release of the Phantom Menace, sporting a new, quasi-6.1, THX Surround EX format that gave us a matrixed rear center channel for more realistic movement directly behind the viewer. We also got more releases in the 6.1 matrixed DTS-ES format, as well as the first official DTS 6.1 Discrete releases. We also got the release of a new format from Dolby Labs in the form of a serious upgrade to Pro-Logic. Pro-Logic II gave us a much increased surround field from even our older movies, and somewhat realistic analog 5.1. Therefore, 2002 might be a big year for upgrading your home theater!
2001 also brought us a great deal of DVD re-releases, sporting new anamorphic transfers and more extras then previous releases. This, of course, angered some people, feeling forced into buying the same movie they’ve already bought. But, most of these re-releases were leaps and bounds ahead of their ancestors. Most notable in the re-release category was the new Die Hard Trilogy set, The Terminator, The Silence of the Lambs, Total Recall and Basic Instinct (both in horrible, horrible cases), The Mummy, the aforementioned Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and others. Hopefully this trend will slow a bit with newer movies as hopefully the first time around they will be considered special editions with all the bells and whistles included from the outset.
In The End
Overall 2001 was quite a stellar year for DVD. DVD has definitely bulled its way into the mainstream, putting VHS way out of the spot light...finally! Look for 2002 to increase this ever-popular market. Watch out for some more classics coming to the format, and overall quality of video and audio to increase throughout the year, and hopefully the full frame scenario talked about earlier won’t be a problem. Should be another exciting year.