‘Honeymooners’ highlights, ’60s rock on CD-ROM

TO THE MOON, ALICE: As more CD-ROM players turn up in computers, producers of CD-ROM titles crank out product to fill the pipeline at a frantic pace. It’s not surprising that these producers are mining the vaults of Hollywood looking for the next product to turn into a successful CD-ROM title.

A recent example of this trend is MPI Multimedia’s soon-to-be-released “The Honeymooners’ Funniest Moments,” which will feature 48 of the greatest scenes from the classic TV series. In addition to the clips, the CD-ROM will feature info on the original episode from which each clip was taken, comments on the clip and a variety of retrospective articles written about the popular show.

MPI Multimedia is part of MPI Home Video, the company that distributes “The Honeymooners: The Lost Episodes” on video, so it’s hardly a surprise they’re connected to the CD-ROM.

At this point, nobody is quite sure what will make the successful jump to the world of CD-ROM. Some industry skeptics are quick to point out that if titles are also available on video, nobody will be interested in watching a digitized version of something that only fills one quarter of the computer screen.

“Right now, it’s a novelty,” says one Silicon Valley executive. “Nobody has really proven that there’s a big audience for these things. They’re flashy and fun to watch, but it’s not necessarily the best viewing experience to watch a movie on your computer.”

“That is a legitimate point,” admits Matthew White, who heads MPI Multimedia. “But I don’t think that argument will be around very long.”

White notes that the quality of CD-ROM video is improving and that third-party MPEG-compatible PC boards will be introduced this year allowing video images to be shown in full-motion, full-size video. “It won’t be a quality issue anymore,” White predicts.

MPI Multimedia is also planning to release CD-ROMs containing the vintage ’60 s rock music TV show “Hullabaloo,” which featured musical performances by such acts as Sonny and Cher and the Bobby Fuller Four, among others. One act that will not be appearing on the CD-ROM, however, is the Rolling Stones, who refused to give up their rights for the CD-ROM.

“Clearing the music rights is a big problem for these things,” White said. “There are certain music publishers out there who are not willing to give up the rights in this area. That’s the exception more than the rule.”

Voyager, another leading producer of CD-ROM titles, has also found there’s gold in them Hollywood Hills. One of their first titles was “A Hard Day’s Night, ” which not only featured the entire film, but the film’s original script, profiles of director Richard Lester and two short films by Lester.

The company’s latest entry into the CD-ROM race is the ambitious “Salt of the Earth.” The film, which is now on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, was made during the height of the McCarthy era by blacklisted filmmakers, including Michael Wilson, Herbert Biberman and Paul Jarrico. It features the entire movie, the original screenplay, notes by Wilson and vast source materials in English, Spanish, French and German. There’s even the testimony of the blacklisted filmmakers to the House Un-American Activities Committee.

ANOTHER CONFERENCE: As the multimedia, interactive and CD-ROM industries take off, it seems as though there’s at least one new conference popping up every month exploring these new areas. As more than one wag has pointed out, so far, the only people making money in multimedia are the ones putting on the conferences.

Following on the heels of the recent Digital Hollywood conference, it’s time to start thinking about Intermedia ’94, which is already in its ninth year and looks to be a promising event.

The opening presentation at the San Jose event, which runs March 1-3, will focus on the impact of digital technologies found in movies. Speakers will include LucasArts president Randy Komisar, Industrial Light & Magic VP Jim Morris and Skywalker Sound VP Katherine Morris. Following their presentation, George Lucas will join his executives for a Q&A session.

This year’s Converging Industries Panel will focus on technological advancements in multimedia applications and digital storage devices. Panel participants include Robert Kavner, AT&T executive VP and CEO, multimedia products and services; James Clark, chairman and founder, Silicon Graphics, Inc.; Edward Horowitz, chairman and CEO, Viacom Broadcasting; and Steven Case, president and CEO, America On Line.

The two-day sessions will feature presenters from IBM, Microsoft, Apple, 3DO, Sony and Philips Interactive Media Systems, who will share their plans and development strategies. Another panel, which will perhaps hold the most appeal to Hollywood, will be “Multimedia and the Entertainment Industry: Artists Talk About the New Media.” It will feature top artists discussing the challenges awaiting the creators of new media products.

(Andy Marx can be reached by computer on PAGE and CompuServe. His CompuServe number is 70324,3424.)

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