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22/3/2001: CHOPPER - AND THE DVD CONTROVERSY

Some readers are indignant that the DVD of the award winning Australian film, Chopper, is being released in Australia this week without the extra features that the UK release carries; but there is more to the story, and our filmmakers stand to benefit from Fox’s policy, as ANDREW L. URBAN reports – and reveals some of the extra features.

The special edition version (as released in the UK and later here) was selected by director Andrew Domink and producer Michele Bennet, and has some deleted scenes from the film (including a fascinating long monologue by Chopper in his cell, that just didn't fit into the rhythm of the film; one or two outtakes, and separate voice over commentaries by Dominik and Mark Brandon Read himself, that provide insight into how the two different people see the film.

In addition, there is A Weekend With Chopper, highlights from the hi-8 footage Andrew shot when he and Eric went down to visit mark on his farm outside Hobart, before shooting ever commenced. Chopper holds court with some anecdotes, which was a big influence on Eric Bana's on-screen interpretation of the character.

"maximising returns to the distributor and filmmaker"

The UK DVD is distributed by Metromedia – not Fox. And the Fox Home Entertainment, as it is here. The strategy is aimed at maximising returns to the distributor and filmmaker. Before you go snorting through your nose at the crass commercialism of this policy, take a moment to consider the implications for Australia’s filmmakers.

By creating a rental-only platform prior to a sell-through platform of the DVD, Fox is actually expanding the revenue potential of the film – without disadvantaging the consumer. (Except for the impatient ones…) While no doubt those who are impatient to get the full DVD version will import the DVD from the UK, the full version will be available in Australia, too (around August).

In Australia, it has always been the rental business that was dominant; sell-through is less profitable and less popular. Fox believes their strategy meets consumer demand as well as satisfying commercial needs. The price that ‘rentailers’ pay for a ‘vanilla’ DVD (no extras) is actually higher than the price paid by consumers for a ‘fully loaded’ DVD, reflecting the commercial value of a rental disc, which will be rented many times during its life. Rental discs are not for sale to the public.

"failed to inform the public"

Perhaps the biggest failure of DVD distributors is that they have failed to inform the public of these strategies in a way that puts their policies in context.

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