HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - DVD may be the first format to present the "Star Wars" saga in the proper story order.
"Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" will be the first of the pictures on DVD when it's released Oct. 16.
Lucasfilm VP of marketing Jim Ward said director George Lucas wanted to release the pictures in story order rather than the order they were distributed theatrically so as to reinforce that "Phantom" is the first chapter in a six-part saga.
But with the DVD market changing and growing so quickly, and the reception for the "Phantom" DVD and next summer's planned theatrical release of "Episode II" still uncertain, the company has not yet made plans to release the other three films on DVD -- episodes IV-VI.
"Phantom" will get a near-simultaneous global release on DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment as a double-disc set priced at $29.98 in the U.S., $41.98 in Canada.
The DVDs offer six hours of extra material, including Lucas' first audio commentary for a "Star Wars" movie, and interviews with filmmakers and editors including Francis Ford Coppola, Philip Kaufman and Walter Murch about the process of editing and other challenges. Their input is part of a one-hour program created by a documentary crew that spent more than four years shooting 600 hours of footage.
Although Lucas did not go back and tweak 1999's "Phantom" with new scenes featuring updated technology as he did with the first three movies from the 1970s and 1980s, the second DVD in the "Phantom" set includes seven uncompleted scenes that were cut from the theatrical release. The scenes were essentially constructed from scratch and sent to Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic effects shop expressly for the "Phantom" DVD.
Appealing to cult followers who swarmed to the Internet to download trailers of the film months in advance of its release, the DVD includes the original theatrical trailers and TV spots, and an award-winning 12-part Internet documentary series.
Also included are five featurettes that provide an inside look at the "Phantom" storyline, design, costumes, visual effects and fight scenes.
Although next year's "Episode II" is being shot entirely on digital, the DVD version of "Phantom" is taken from the same film master that was used for the digital presentation in selected theaters and from the same video master used for the videocassette release of the movie last year.
Ward said it was difficult to estimate sales for the DVD release since the movie had a full-scale video release just last year. That release generated sales of more than 5 million units in the first 48 hours, according to Fox, and nearly 10 million units overall, according to Video Business research.
Even without a DVD version, the movie that generated the second biggest box office gross on its initial release, with $431 million, collected an additional $176 million in consumer spending on the purchase and rental of videocassettes.