Tuesday, December 13, 2005

King Kong Diaries DVD is OUT!!

When director Peter Jackson released his special extended DVD version of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" in 2002 with some five hours of expertly made bonus material, it was a groundbreaking event that set a new standard in the marketing of deluxe DVDs.

Just hours before the release of his blockbuster "King Kong," however, Jackson has done himself one better. With his release Tuesday of "King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Diaries," he's marketing the DVD bonus material BEFORE his movie comes out in theaters.

The boxed-set, which sells for $39.98, boasts two discs, together running three hours and 46 minutes, introduced by Jackson and chronicling the film's 131-day shoot in 54 segments originally made for the movie's official Internet fan site, kongisking.net.

Jackson says the discs are not "a calculated piece of publicity" but an idea that "grew without a master plan" as he realized that the more informally made Internet spots were capturing the production experience in a unique way that deserved a higher-quality DVD showcase.

The scenes have a much more relaxed, spontaneous cinema verite feel to them than the slick bonus material Jackson produced for his three "Rings" special edition DVDs, and he claims they "accurately and truly reflect the tone of the making of this film."

The "Diaries" package, which comes in a faux-antique traveling case modeled on the one used by expedition leader Carl Denham in the original "Kong," also includes a 52-page, full-color booklet with production notes, drawings and images from the film.

Also included are four specially commissioned, 8-by-10-inch production lithographs that come with a numbered "certificate of authenticity" signed by Jackson. The advertising stresses that the set is a "limited edition," with value as a collectible.

Only time will tell if this concept will become a major new element of movie promotion, but superproducer Jerry Bruckheimer said in Seattle last week he thought it was "brilliant ... what a smart idea. You put out the bonus material first and it promotes the movie."

As he points out, however, it's hardly a new idea. In the pre-wide-release era, movie studios routinely showcased their big releases with special souvenir booklets and "making-of" theatrical featurettes. Jackson is merely updating the "road show" concept to the DVD era.

Of course, with DVD sales more important than a film's theatrical gross, the argument might be made that the early release of so many production secrets may not be such a great idea, because it could lessen the appeal of the eventual special edition DVD package of "King Kong."

And there's a definite downside to viewing what is essentially a four-hour advertisement for a movie one day before seeing it. It's not exactly a complete spoiler, but it certainly cuts down on the surprises and makes the movie itself a wee bit of an anti-climax.


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