Uni eyes home video for the holidays

DVD, Blu-ray gift sets include 'Wanted,' 'Incredible Hulk'

Universal Studios Home Entertainment this week is announcing an ambitious ramp-up in its home video gift set initiative, hoping that one secret to success in these rocky economic times lies in the hearts of collectors.

The studio has unveiled an unprecedented slate of 11 gift sets aimed at holiday shoppers, encompassing new theatrical releases and catalog titles. And for the first time, Blu-ray Disc is a factor; last year at this time Universal was still an exclusive supporter of the HD DVD format, which finally bowed out of the high-def format war last February.

"We've learned from experience that home entertainment enthusiasts eagerly look forward to such collectible editions of their favorite films and TV shows," said Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Three of the theatrical releases coming to home video in both the DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats: "The Incredible Hulk," coming Oct. 21; "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," due Nov. 11; and "Wanted," arriving in stores Dec. 2.

The "Hulk" DVD and Blu-ray gift sets each feature hours of bonus content, including an alternate opening scene and extensive background information about the film and its characters, as well as digital copy for play on portable movie-viewing devices. The Blu-ray version comes in collectible 3-D packaging.

"Hellboy II" will be released as a three-disc DVD and a two-disc Blu-ray gift set. The set includes a digital copy and in-depth bonus features, all encased in limited-edition 3-D packaging. The gift sets also come with a director's production journal, a poster and a collectible Golden Army statue.

"Wanted," an action thriller with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, will be issued in a deluxe gift set, also in both DVD and Blu-ray versions, that includes a digital copy, bonus content, a book of assassins and collectible postcards. The set comes in collectible packaging pierced with a bullet, creating a shattering effect to the outer case.

Popular catalog titles are featured in eight other gift sets, albeit on standard DVD only:

"The High School Flashback Collection," now in stores, features three all-new special editions of 1980s films "The Breakfast Club," "Weird Science" and "Sixteen Candles," all from director John Hughes. The collection includes new interviews with cast members, deleted scenes and audio commentaries and comes packaged in a collectible tin designed to look like a locker.

A three-disc collector's edition of the 1942 Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire classic "Holiday Inn" features an all-new color version of the film, along with the original black-and-white theatrical version. The set, arriving in stores Oct. 14, also comes with a CD soundtrack featuring holiday songs by famed composer Irving Berlin.

"Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection" ships Oct. 28 in a collectible trunk; the set features all 28 comedies the duo produced for Universal and comes with a 44-page book on the legendary duo's comedic exploits. "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" follows Nov. 4 in a gift set featuring the two-disc special edition of the film and a limited-edition Grinch snow globe.

A 10th anniversary edition of "The Big Lebowski," packaged in a limited-edition bowling ball case, kicked off Universal's 2008 gift-set initiative in September; coming Oct. 28 is a 30th anniversary edition of "Animal House," packaged in a Delta House box and including two exclusive new "Scene It?" games, a new documentary and an exclusive yearbook.

Also in the gift-set pipeline are hefty complete-series sets of the TV shows "Knight Rider," featuring K.I.T.T.'s trademark swirling red light with a sound chip of the show's theme song, and "The Incredible Hulk." Both are scheduled to be released Oct. 21.