Matrix DVD breaks 'extras' barrier

UK DVD sales have got off to a slow start compared to the US partly because the films don't get many cool add-ons. That could be changing

The number of innovative extra features included with the DVD release of The Matrix suggests that the UK market is starting to catch up with the US in terms of the quality of content offered to consumers. The lack of extra content on UK releases is cited as one of the reasons for the comparatively slow growth of the UK market.

The film, released on 29 November, is complemented by a host of the additional features called "extras" that help to make the DVD format so attractive to film fans. One of the most innovative is called "Follow the White Rabbit". At nine action scenes in the film a white rabbit appears on screen. Pressing enter at this point takes the viewer to a behind the scenes clips of how the scene was made.

In the US, which has around seven times the number of DVD titles in the UK, consumers expect the films they buy to come with a number of extras. One of the reasons for this is that the US market is far ahead of the UK in terms of sales of DVD software and players. With DVD entering the mainstream in America the studios are more willing to invest in a better product. "The companies need to understand that the user in the UK wants more," said a spokeswoman for Abbey Road Studios, "they need to spend more money."

Analysts and industry insiders believe that the lack of extras on the majority of UK releases are hindering the growth of the UK market. They provide the extra incentive for consumers to purchase a DVD film that can cost up to £20 and, in Strategic Analytics' senior analyst David Mercer's view, "help to differentiate DVD from VHS". Titanic, Fox's first DVD release in the UK, was one of the most expensive titles ever but contained no extra features at all.

According to Bryan Welsh, managing director of online retailer DVDplus, "If the studios want the volume of sales they are going to have to offer value for money, which means adding extra features. Although there are those that buy DVD for the better picture and audio quality, consumers are getting pickier about what's included."

However the possibilities inherent in the DVD format mean that its full potential is still not being utilised, neither here nor in the US. Mercer believes that Hollywood is just waking up to what can be done with DVD, with studios starting to work on creating fully interactive movies. Abbey Road Studios believes that "people will push the DVD format more and more at they what they can do," and give as an example their recently completed work on the Spinal Tap DVD.

"As this is a cult movie where people have their favourite lines," said a spokeswoman, "we added features so that you could search the film's scenes by quotes, or by where the venues for the concerts were."

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