‘Alien,’ ‘Indiana Jones’ best of the bunch

Bonus materials pull homevid consumers

From bonus-laden special editions of venerable movie franchises to an accelerating release schedule of TV series boxed sets, multi-disc collector’s packages were the key for DVDs in 2003.

Fox’s “Alien Quadrilogy” stood above this crowd — literally. The folding nine-disc package unfurls to a length of more than 5 feet and contains more than 53 exhaustive hours of content.

Assembled by Charles de Lauzirika, DVD producer on a number of helmer Ridley Scott’s titles, “Quadrilogy” is perhaps the most comprehensive DVD collector’s package authored.

For avid fans of the “Alien” series, the release has everything from Jim Cameron’s 237-minute special edition version of “Aliens” — as long and “more suspenseful” as Cameron himself bills it in a short pre-show interview — to a documentary detailing the work of artist H.R. Giger, who designed the terrifying antagonists.

The content is freshly produced and not slapped-together electronic press kit material.

Some of these heavier, more expensive titles were indeed as collectible as advertised, such as Paramount’s long-awaited “Indiana Jones” trilogy. Restored and digitized by Lucasfilm with 5.1 sound, the four-disc set includes five top-quality “how-they-did-that” featurettes created by Laurent Bouzereau, DVD producer on all of Steven Spielberg’s DVD offerings.

Artisan’s special edition of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” its third DVD release of the 1991 pre-apocalyptic sequel billed as the “Extreme DVD,” capitalized on the theatrical buzz of Warner’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” It was a notably pioneering effort because of the inclusion of a high-definition edition of the movie viewable on Windows Media 9-equipped computers, making it the first HD-DVD.

For tech heads the chase sequences in high def are a fun experience. For the rest, ubiquitous dispersal of HD-DVD is still a ways off.

TV catalog gems were also further mined in 2003 and marketed as DVD collector’s sets, with some of these programs appearing better suited for DVD in the first place.

Meanwhile, a handful of new B.O. hits were well fortified with originally produced bonus material in 2003 and packaged in multi-disc “special edition” form. Disney’s “Finding Nemo” was notable for a range of fun interactive DVD-ROM games appealing to fish of all ages, and the Warner-distributed “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” impressively packs five discs’ worth of original docs and interviews.

But not all that was burned to disc was fresh and original. Warner’s summer blockbuster “T3,” was unimpressive, led largely by an over-exposed Arnold Schwarzenegger and a “behind-the-scenes” featurette that’s nothing more than an HBO “First Look” special. But “T3” was hardly alone in repurposing bonus content.

Alas, 2003 was the year when the majors truly began to see DVD in a new, more profitable light, and combining production of bonus material with that of bland electronic press kits to save money became common practice. Meanwhile, these same suppliers have been integrating advertising into some of their DVD extras — just as Universal did when it placed car ads into the bonus material of its “Seabiscuit” and “2 Fast 2 Furious” DVD releases.

Look for more of the same in 2004.

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