DVD, Blu-Ray close on 'Encounter'

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Steven Spielberg's landmark "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is coming to DVD ($40) and Blu-ray Disc ($50) on Nov. 13, four days shy of the 30th anniversary of its 1977 theatrical opening.

The release marks the first time a Spielberg movie has been issued on high-definition disc, and it also is the first home video release of all three versions of the film: the 1977 original theatrical cut, the re-edited 1980 theatrical special edition and Spielberg's director's cut, released in 1998.

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition" also includes a new interview with Spielberg, a retrospective documentary and, exclusive to the 50GB Blu-ray, new "storyboard-to-scene" comparisons and the original 1977 "Watch the Skies" featurette.

Through a process known as "seamless branching," the Blu-ray version contains all three films on a single disc. The process identifies the differences between each version of the film, segments the footage and then arranges it into three unique playlists so that footage used in all three films is only included on the disc once -- minimizing space requirements.

"When Steven Spielberg first released his iconic masterpiece, it was universally hailed for both its cutting-edge technological effects and its compelling message of hope," Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president David Bishop said. "Now, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of its release, it seems only appropriate to make all three versions of the film available on the most advanced high-definition format available, Blu-ray Disc, which will add yet another new and thrilling dimension to this timeless film."

"Close Encounters" was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best director, and won one, for best cinematography. The Academy also gave a special achievement award to Frank Warner for sound effects editing.

The original theatrical cut of the film opened in 1977 and has never been released on video. Three years later, Spielberg released a re-edited version of the film -- first to theaters and then to videocassette -- in which he deleted several smaller scenes and added others, including a sequence showing Richard Dreyfuss inside the alien mother shipcq at film's end. In 1998, Spielberg made more changes to the film but restored the original ending, and "Close Encounters" went back out to theaters as well as DVD.
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