Jon Landau, executive producer of James Cameron's phenomenally successful film Avatar and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, recently hosted a press day introducing the April 22 release of Avatar on Blu-ray--participating in one-on-one interviews with selected members of the press, as well as roundtable discussions. Although, there wasn't much in the way of food, they did have a bar where the Avatar blue martini was the house special. The following is a snippet of the roundtable conversation as well as discussions I had with James Finn of Twentieth Century Fox.
Q: Do you think 3D is here to stay, and should everything be made in 3D?
Landau: Moving forward, Jim (James Cameron) wants to do everything in 3D. Had digital 3D been available a dozen or so years ago when he shot Titanic, he'd have used it, but he didn't have it at the time. And now that we have the technology we intend to do Titanic in 3D. It will take one year to 18 months and Jim will be involved in it. We see in 3D everyday--we've always seen in 3D, we just never knew how to (theatrically) capture it until now.
And should everything be made in 3D? Depends. Remaking classics, we'll use Citizen Kane for example, I would not support that because Orson Wells isn't here. Now if you want to go and do ET and have Steven [Spielberg] involved in it. I think that would be great. I think if you want to do Star Wars and I think George [Lucas] is interested in doing it. Lord of the Rings... Again, to have someone come in and interpret what [the director] wants, I think that's where we get into trouble. It becomes exploitative and not creative. Right now the desire to make movies in 3D must come from the filmmaker and not the studios.
What can we expect to find on the Blu-ray release of Avatar on the 22?
Landau:The way we've approached this initial release is all about the quality of the presentation. So there is no additional content on the disc. There are no trailers, no commercials, and no director's commentary because that takes away from the bit-rate that you can apply to the movie. We went with very simplistic menus again because [to elaborate on the menu] meant you have to do nine different versions and you have to do it in French, in Spanish, and do all this different branching. It [would have taken] up enough space that you'd have lost something off of the picture quality. Jim Cameron spent a week with our color timer, who did the movie doing a special color grading for the home entertainment release. Normally, the quote-encoding process takes two weeks. We spent five weeks doing it. We had people involved from Lightstorm throughout, where we made sure everything was right. We think the quality that we are going to present on the Blu-ray is pretty remarkable.
So this is just the movie with no frills. How much of the Blu-ray disc are you using then for the movie?
Landau: Well, I wouldn't say "no frills" [chuckles]... We are actually using 100 percent of the disc.
Well, you know what I mean. Are there plans to release a special edition or 3D version of Avatar at all?
Jon Landau: Yes and yes. Sometime in November of this year we are planning to do a multidisc set, three or four, don't know yet. As for the 3D version, sometime next year.
If that's the case, why release this one at all, especially, when Avatar is still playing in theaters?
Landau: I don't think the two experiences are mutually exclusive. I think that there are going to be people who say, "I want to go see Avatar on an IMAX screen and get the DVD." I mean, I think its two different experiences and fulfill two different requirements. I think it's interesting that people make a big deal when people go back and see a movie again for a second time. However, they don't make a big deal when we listen to a piece of music over and over. It's really, to me, that same type of thing. What owning the disc does, it's like owning an album. You don't have to wait to go see the concert, but when the concert is available for your favorite band, you still go see it. But, in the meantime, you have it.
Also, we are aware that there are bootlegged versions of the movie made available to the public, and if people are buying it then fine, but why not give the public the real Avatar experience and how it was intended to be shown on a disc?
After the roundtable discussion, I had a chance to talk to James Finn, who's senior vice president of corporate and consumer communications at Twentieth Century Fox. Finn noted that Avatar's Blu-ray and DVD edition release was scheduled for April 22 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Inclusive to the Blu-ray release is the opportunity to become part of a global Avatar family. Using a unique code packaged inside the disc to register, the owner can gain access to exclusive digital offers that include the opportunity to support the Million Tree Initiative by adopting a tree and receiving its exact global location through a virtual home map.
The parallels of the destruction of Avatar's Home Tree and the raping of the world's forests are clear in the movie, but I can't wrap my head around the fact that so many discs are going to be pressed for Thursday's release, November's release, and 2011's release for...the...same...movie.