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Spielberg classics swim up to DVD

'Jaws' slated as first release, coincides with 25th anni

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 today a special 25th anniversary collector’s edition of the 1975 monster hit to be released July 11 that 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 vid 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.

“We plan to make this the video event of the summer,” Kornblau said. He expects the DVD version to rank among Universal’s top-selling DVD titles, which include “The Mummy,” “American Pie” and DreamWorks’ “Saving Private Ryan,” the latter of which is distributed by Universal.

Universal’s multimillion-dollar promotion will include an online cross-promotion with Microsoft’s WindowsMedia.com multimedia Web site.

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.

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