Disney plans big splash for 'Pirates'

Dec. 4 bow follows succesful pattern of first two pics

The third "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie has become the first of the big summer theatrical blockbusters to be slotted for home video release in the fourth quarter.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," which since its May 27 theatrical opening has grossed more than $301 million in U.S. theaters and more than $946 million worldwide, will arrive on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on Dec. 4, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment said.

The official announcement, expected to be made today at San Diego Comic-Con International, doesn't come as much of a surprise, industry observers said. Disney is following the same strategy it successfully employed with the first two "Pirates," which also were released on DVD in December, at the tail end of the fourth quarter.

In each case, skeptics wondered whether such a late date would let the DVD pick up sufficient traction before the holidays hit, but each time Disney gambled that impulse buying and pent-up demand would send sales numbers through the roof has paid off. In December, consumers picked up 10.5 million DVDs of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" in a single week, the biggest first-week tally of any DVD release that year. Three years earlier, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," also a December release, moved 11 million videos its first week in stores, 90% of them on DVD.

"At World's End" didn't fare as well at the boxoffice as its two predecessors. The first "Pirates" grossed $305.4 million in U.S. theaters, while the second film in the franchise arrived on video with a domestic theatrical pedigree of $423 million. But Bob Chapek, president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, is hoping for another sales record, particularly because the film will make its home-video debut in three different versions: a single-disc DVD, a two-disc special edition DVD and a high-definition Blu-ray Disc.

"This December, we're thrilled to be giving 'Pirates' fans even more to cheer about as we bring the biggest worldwide boxoffice hit of 2007 to DVD and high-definition Blu-ray Disc," Chapek said. "Both versions will be loaded with stunning bonus materials that will make 'Pirates' the perfect gift this holiday."

Indeed, the two-disc "Pirates" DVD and the two-disc, 75GB Blu-ray edition come with hours of bloopers and other extras, including a documentary on the history of piracy and the pirate code, and a look at the relationship between Keith Richards and Johnny Depp. There also are docus on the film's design teams, and featurettes profiling the special effects used to create multiple Captain Jacks; composer Hans Zimmer, who provided the score; Chow Yun Fat, who plays the devious Captain Sao Feng; and the legendary Pirate Lords and their costume designs, origins and personalities.

The Blu-ray edition also will contain an interactive exploration of the "Maelstrom" battle sequence between the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman, with its groundbreaking blend of live-action footage and computer-aided special effects. The BD-Java feature, developed and produced by Disney and programd by the Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory, lets viewers explore the Palmdale, Calif., hangar that housed the ships and sets, with in-feature pop-ups and icons that reveal multimedia content about how the storm was created, from set construction to special effects. They can either explore the set on their own or take an hour-long "tour" hosted by film producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Bruckheimer said the shoot was "so real (it helped the actors) get into character. On the other hand, they were pelted with 60-mile-an-hour winds and water and had stuff thrown at them."

Bruckheimer added that he is a big fan of Blu-ray. He also had a hand in many of the extras on the discs, including the behind-the-scenes explorations of the movie-making process.

"I think the audience likes to see how things are made," he said.

Stephanie Prange, editor-in-chief of Agent DVD, contributed to this report.
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