Ever wonder why you see so many TV ads for new DVDs?  It's because the studios often make more money from the video release than they take in at the box office.  So with a film like Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings, which took in gobs of cash at the theaters, the DVD has enormous earning potential.  To maximize its take from this blockbuster title, New Line is preparing four different DVD editions of the first film in the LOTR trilogy.  In August New Line will ship the 'regular edition' of the DVD, a two-disk set that will be available in two different skus -- a widescreen version and a pan-and-scan version (the srp is $29.95 for both versions). Most collectors prefer the widescreen version because it includes all the visual information of the original, but pan-and-scan was developed to adapt widescreen film for TV-shaped screens and many people who don't have big screen TVs prefer pan-and-scan.  As DVD wrests the market away from VHS, the new debate for retailers will be whether to carry both the widescreen and P & S versions of any particular movie on DVD.


The third and fourth versions of the LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring that will be released in November will both be in the widescreen anamorphic format.  These will be collector-oriented four-disk sets and will include 30 minutes of additional footage cut into the film by director Peter Jackson himself.  This new 'version' of the film will be rated 'R' due to the extended violence in the added footage, but at this time no retail price has been set for this release.  This is also true of the fourth and final DVD sku, a special limited edition gift set version of the 4-disk release that includes two bookend statuettes produced by upscale toymaker Sideshow (see 'Sideshow Toys Expands High End Offerings') as well as the National Geographic Special 'Beyond the Movie' DVD, and several highly collectible LOTR CCG cards from Decipher (see 'LOTR Starter Decks Sell Out').  New Line did not reveal the special features and extras for the 4-disk sets, many of which are still in production, but it is likely that the four disk sets will include the extras announced for the 2-disk August releases.


The extra features announced for both of the August DVDs are considerable.  They include three in-depth documentaries about the making of the film: 'A Passage to Middle-Earth' from the Sci-Fi Channel, 'The Quest for the Ring' from the FBC Network, and 'Welcome to Middle-Earth' produced by Houghton Mifflin.  The 'extras' disk also includes 15 featurettes created for the LOTR Website, a 10-minute preview of  the second film in the series, The Two Towers, a music video of Enya performing 'May It Be,' original theatrical trailers and TV ads, as well as exclusive online content available to DVD-ROM users.


New Line's ambitious DVD program for Fellowship of the Ring provides some tough choices for both retailers and consumers.  Die hard fans of the film will really want to have the extra footage included in the November releases, but can they wait?  At least New Line is being upfront with consumers and letting them know that a 'director's cut' version is going to be available.  But in two years after the entire trilogy is out, won't some kind of special box set containing all the films and all the 'extras' be an irresistible temptation for New Line?