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‘Pearl’s’ double vision

PG-13 version hits stores Dec. 4., R version in January

HOLLYWOOD — Extra time needed for Michael Bay to create an R-rated version of “Pearl Harbor” and complete production work on the 12 hours of extra material for a special DVD edition has forced Disney to create an unprecedented and potentially problematic video release strategy for the second-biggest film of the year.

The director’s cut will make its debut on homevideo Jan. 15 for $39.99, just six weeks after Disney’s Buena Vista Home Entertainment unleashes the PG-13 theatrical version of “Pearl Harbor” on Dec. 4 for $29.99 (or $49.99 for a gift edition).

With about five minutes of previously deleted scenes of more graphic footage during the attack on Pearl Harbor and in the hospital being inserted, it is expected that when the completed recut is submitted to the ratings board that it may earn an R-rating.

Not only is the window between editions short compared to a more typical delay of several months, the studio took the unusually forthright approach Wednesday of announcing the more elaborate and enticing version before retailers and consumers have spent a nickel on the first video version.

While that kind of apparent integrity in publicity seems commendable, it’s unlikely that the message will get passed on to customers at Wal-Mart, Best Buy and other retailers as they prepare to purchase the December release. It could cause a backlash among consumers when they see the much more elaborate edition two weeks after the holidays.

Impact sales

The situation could also have an impact on how many copies of the December release retailers purchase, knowing that a more elaborate version is coming a few weeks later.

Sources at Disney said the company had hoped to release all video versions of the movie at the same time prior to the holidays. But when it became apparent that the R-rated special edition DVD would not be ready, the studio decided to go ahead with plans for the Dec. 4 release so as not to miss the opportunity to capitalize on the obvious marketing potential of a tie-in to the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. The initial double-cassette VHS and double-disc DVD editions that will offer limited bonus material are being called “60th Anniversary Commemorative Editions.”

“Pearl Harbor” has amassed nearly $400 million in worldwide box office receipts, including more than $195 million in the U.S.

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