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DVD encryption cockup likely to cost Munich a BAFTA award

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DVD encryption cockup likely to cost Munich a BAFTA award

Old 01-11-06, 04:29 PM
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DVD encryption cockup likely to cost Munich a BAFTA award

Someone will likely get fired over this.


FROM Jaws and Close Encounters through to War of the Worlds, Steven Spielberg movies have rarely had trouble connecting with audiences.

But the man who put a capital B into the contemporary blockbuster, whose films have grossed billions and whose name is usually the stamp of glorious cinematic success, has been humbled. By a button. Pushed, it seems, mistakenly.

This has had a profound effect on the director's latest opus, at least as far as the members of the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTAs) are concerned. By today they have to nominate the films they think worthy of accolade, and Spielberg's Munich was expected to be among them, tipped for awards in Britain and at the Oscars.

But the preview DVD sent to the academy's members is unplayable on machines used in Britain. As a result most of the 5000 voters for the British awards will not have seen the film, due to be released in Britain on January 27, and can hardly be expected to recommend it for acclaim.

Sara Keene at Premier PR, the company co-ordinating Munich's campaign for the British awards, blamed the mistake on human error at the laboratory where the DVDs were encrypted. "Someone pushed the wrong button," she said. "It was a case of rotten bad luck." She insisted the film's distributor, Universal, was not at fault.

The problem, it appears, was partly down to teething troubles with the limited-edition DVD players issued last year to the British academy's members. Developed by Cinea, a subsidiary of Dolby, the players permit their owners to view encrypted DVD "screeners", but prevent the creation of pirate copies. Munich screeners were encoded for region one, which allows them to be played in the US and Canada, rather than region two, which incorporates most of Europe.

The faulty DVDs reached members only on Saturday, which meant the film had already missed out on the first round of voting on January 4. In a further twist, a previous batch mailed before Christmas was reportedly held up by customs officials in Britain. "It's been quite a cock-up," said one academy member, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The general feeling among members is that the film has now been shut out of the nominations simply because not enough people have actually had the opportunity to see the thing."

Munich is a dramatisation of the 1972 Olympics hostage crisis that resulted in the death of 11 Israeli athletes. The plot follows a hit squad from the Israeli secret service, Mossad, on the trail of the Palestinian Black September group behind the kidnappings. The film has been criticised by Israeli officials for what is perceived as Spielberg's sympathetic attitude towards the Palestinian cause, and for allegedly equating Mossad's actions with those of the terrorists. Reviews in the US have been largely positive.

DVD screeners remain a vexed issue for distributors concerned about the potential for piracy. But the evidence suggests that they play a vital role in raising a film's profile among award voters.

"There are over 5000 BAFTA members," Keene explained. "With the best will in the world, they don't all come to the preview screenings. Unless you send them DVDs it is really hard to get a film nominated."

This point was brought home last year when the distributor Entertainment decided not to provide voters for the British awards with screeners of Million Dollar Baby. Clint Eastwood's boxing drama failed to gain a single nomination at the 2005 awards. One month later it scooped the major honours at the Academy Awards.
Old 01-11-06, 04:46 PM
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Hmm, maybe now that some of the bigwigs have been hit by region coding, they may take a little closer look at it for the next formats. It's greed and stubbornness that's kept it in place so long as it is.
Old 01-11-06, 05:04 PM
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That is hilarious.
Old 01-11-06, 05:12 PM
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I can't believe that happened...if I was Spielberg, I'd be fucking fuming...this is ridiculous!

Old 01-11-06, 05:34 PM
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It's really a shame for Speilberg, but I can't pretend to be anything but happy when these damn anti-"piracy" (usually more like anti-consumer) technologies backfire on their manufacturers.
Old 01-11-06, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by from the article
She insisted the film's distributor, Universal, was not at fault.
Give them time. I'm sure they'll find a way to screw up the consumer DVD release.
Old 01-11-06, 07:49 PM
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That sucks...way to screw up the chances of a good movie.
Old 01-11-06, 08:10 PM
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Wow, that's quite a cock up.
Old 01-11-06, 08:19 PM
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Old 01-11-06, 10:50 PM
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Oh, it's Universal? Glad to see we aren't the only ones they are fucking over with their shoddy releases.

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