‘Phantom’ getting DVD facelift

Double-disc features seven scenes cut from pic

NICASIO, Calif. — Even before sales have been registered, the DVD version of “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” has set what is believed to be a record — for the most time and money spent on the production of new material for a DVD.

Team Lucas spent approximately $4 million, according to Daily Variety sister electronic publication Video Premieres, and a year and a half producing a double-disc set that features seven scenes that were cut from the movie before they were fully produced.

But that will have to be enough to hold DVD-loving fans of the original trio of “Star Wars” theatrical releases at bay for at least five years.

George Lucas said during a recent presentation to the media at his Skywalker ranch in Northern California that the original three “Star Wars” movies (now known as Episodes IV, V and VI) will not be released on DVD until after Episode III comes out theatrically (targeted for 2005) and on DVD (at least 2006).

However, he admitted that he once said he would not release any of the six “Star Wars” movies on DVD before that time so he could release them all at once. “There were pressures to release (‘Phantom’),” he explained, noting that he will release Episodes II and III as most other studios do — following theatrical release — and then release the first three original films.

Lucas was so enamored of the newly completed shots that he has incorporated several of them (they last a few seconds each) into the movie. That version of the pic will make its world debut on DVD from Fox on Oct. 16.

A little more than two weeks later, the extended version of “Shrek,” with an added ending scene featuring three minutes of newly produced theatrical-quality animation, will premiere on video.

Lucas and “Phantom” distributor Fox declined to discuss the budget for the “Phantom” DVD.

Disney is believed to have crossed into the million-dollar territory as well with spending on new material for its elaborate Platinum DVD edition of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Disney is also finishing production on an elaborate DVD version of “Pearl Harbor” for release in January that features a new director’s cut expected to draw an R rating.

“Phantom” visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman produced the deleted scenes for the “Phantom” DVD over a period of six months working with a team of 100 people at Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic. He said that the 300 effects shots specifically for the DVD is more than the number of shots created for any movie except “Phantom” and “Titanic.”

Van Ling, who created the menus of the DVD edition of “The Abyss” and “T2: The Ultimate Edition,” produced the “Phantom” DVD, which includes three completely different sets of homepage and chapter menus.

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