‘Godzilla’ duo tubthumps SDDS

Producers Emmerich and Devlin endorse digital sound format

Nearly 600 theater execs around the globe received letters last week from Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, director and producer of Sony’s Memorial Day release “Godzilla,” beseeching them to play the sci-fi actioner in Sony’s SDDS eight-channel digital sound format.

“Sound is an extremely important part of the whole ‘Godzilla’ experience and we would like your audiences to hear the movie as we intended,” wrote Emmerich and Devlin in the letter, dated April 6. “For a truly outstanding sound experience, we appeal to you to play ‘Godzilla’ in eight channel SDDS.”

The pair, who also made Fox’s 1996 hit “Independence Day,” follow “Men in Black” director Barry Sonnenfeld and “Starship Troopers” helmer Paul Verhoeven in pushing eight-channel SDDS to theater owners.

Having the backing of powerful creative types could have an effect on exhibitors’ equipment-buying habits, particularly at a time when studios themselves have played down their alliances to specific systems. Distributors now routinely release their films in all three digital formats.

“It could definitely have some impact,” said a buyer at one major U.S. theater circuit.

The letters went to company toppers as well as head film buyers and those involved in equipment-purchasing decisions.

So far, no filmmakers have sent letters on behalf of SDDS’ competitors Dolby Digital or DTS. Steven Spielberg helped launch the latter system — in which he owns a stake — with the DTS-only release of 1993’s “Jurassic Park.”

Interestingly, all of the filmmakers who have stumped for SDDS have been associated with films released by Sony Pictures. However, according to Sony cinema products VP of worldwide marketing, Gemma Richardson, “No pressure was put on them by Sony to do these letters.

“They are making eight-channel movies and they’re concerned that there aren’t enough eight-channel screens out there,” adds Richardson. “So they’re asking exhibitors to spend an additional $10,000 dollars and get two extra loudspeaker channels behind the screen and deliver to the audience the director’s mix.”

There are currently about 800 eight-channel SDDS installations in the U.S., according to Sony.

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