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April 26, 2000

By Scott Hettrick

Steven Spielberg has finally relented and will begin introducing his library of blockbuster movies on DVD, beginning this summer with Jaws.

Universal Home Video is expected to announce Tuesday a special 25th anniversary collector's edition of the 1975 monster hit to be released July 11. It will include deleted scenes, outtakes, a trivia game and a new digital widescreen view with a choice of Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 Surround-sound.

The rest of the hits Spielberg made for Universal, including E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park -- ranked as the fourth- and fifth-biggest moneymakers of all time, respectively -- are expected to be introduced later, as will Schindler's List and The Lost World: Jurassic Park on a staggered basis.

No word yet on the DVD fate of the Indiana Jones trilogy from Paramount.

Last fall's release of Saving Private Ryan was the first and only other blockbuster directed by Spielberg that is on DVD. It was released simultaneously with the introduction of the movie on VHS at a reduced sell-through price.

Spielberg and Universal had initially planned to release Jurassic Park on DVD along with several other titles from Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, including Back to the Future, back in 1997, but those plans were put on hold as Spielberg grew concerned about piracy issues. Sources said there were also concerns that there was not a large enough installed base of DVD players in homes at that time to generate software sales that would be worthy of the modern classics. There are more than 6.5 million homes with players now, with projections of 10 million-12 million by the end of the year.

Jaws was initially released on video in 1980. Because there wasn't much of a market for the purchase of videos at that time, the movie has sold only 800,000 copies in 20 years, compared with sales of nearly 17 million VHS and laserdisc copies of Jurassic Park.

Universal Studios Home Video president Craig Kornblau said that since the video version of the movie -- which ranks 13th on the all-time U.S. box office chart -- has sold so few copies on video and has not been sold in any video form since 1996, the studio is treating this summer's release as if it were a brand new release to video. A new double-cassette VHS edition will also be available.

Most of the behind-the-scenes and supplemental material on the DVD is taken from Universal's collector's edition laserdisc version of the movie that was released several years ago.

Spielberg's decision to unleash his hits on DVD means that other Amblin titles such as Back to the Future, Casper, and the animated series An American Tail and The Land Before Time will also be coming to DVD in the coming months.

Variety 2000

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