Busy Q4 for home video

Direct-to-video projects in the mix for DVD, Blu-ray release

Home entertainment marketers might have their hands full with a boatload of theatrical features headed for DVD in the fourth quarter as well as a big push behind Blu-ray Disc, the next-generation, high-definition format they hope will one day replace DVD.

But the direct-to-video initiatives many studios began in the past three or four years are not by any means taking a back seat.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment, one of the leaders in the Hollywood trend of producing direct-to-video sequels to big theatrical hits, will premiere "The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior" on Aug. 19 on DVD and Blu-ray.

The film, a prequel, takes viewers back to the beginning of the saga of Mathayus, the young warrior who would become the Scorpion King. The film stars five-time Ultimate Fighting Championship winner Randy Couture and former Power Ranger Michael Copon.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Craig Kornblau said "Scorpion King 2" is Universal's "most ambitious" DVD original, with production values "that deliver theatrical-style action, adventure and excitement."

Direct-to-video sequels have been good business for Universal, Kornblau said, with three sequels to "American Pie" and three more DVD originals based on the cheerleader movie "Bring It On" selling from 1 million-2 million copies apiece. That translates into a cool consumer spending total of nearly $200 million.

"Clearly, consumers have a huge appetite for more stories from these franchises that they love," Kornblau said.

Direct-to-video sequels, or prequels, are typically produced at a much lower budget than the theatrical originals and generally feature few, if any, original cast members. In the case of the "American Pie" sequels, the sole mainstay has been Eugene Levy; "Scorpion King 2" features all fresh faces.

Still, Universal is sticking to its guns. The first "Scorpion King," which grossed more than $90 million during its 2002 theatrical run, starred former pro wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The prequel features Couture, another celebrated strongman.

Like big theatrical DVD and Blu-ray releases, "Scorpion King 2" comes with a making-of documentary and other extras, including a featurette on the visual effects, deleted scenes and a gag reel. There's also a feature in which Couture discusses how he prepared for the role of the villainous King Sargon.

Also in the direct-to-video pipeline is "Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead," coming Oct. 7 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The sequel to the 2001 original, about three young road trippers terrorized by a homicidal trucker, also comes with a making-of documentary, a featurette on the "make-up of horror" and a storyboard-to-scene comparison.