DVD Releases Spark Movie Premiere Déjà Vu

The red carpet has been rolled up, but film stars and fans are having movie premiere déjà vu these days when DVDs (search) are released.

Instead of quietly going into the cinematic archives after their stint on the big screen, movies are now getting a second chance to make a first impression -- and increase their profits -- with their DVD version.

Actors, producers and directors find themselves back at glitzy events, on the press circuit and in the studio working on enhancements for the video release.

DVDs, loaded with bonuses like the director's cut, interviews and behind-the-scenes snippets, have started to become hotly anticipated events. Studios regularly spring for a new round of advertising, journalists review DVD extras and fans can't seem to get enough of the mega-movie merchandise.

"The film release is only one step in an ongoing process," said Dana Polan, professor of cinema at the University of Southern California (search ). "The movie release is the locomotive that pulls the rest of the train along."

And perhaps most importantly, movie studios have discovered that DVD sales are often where the serious profits are.

This month, a little fish proved this point in a big way. "Finding Nemo (search )" -- which netted $339 million at the box office -- sold a record 8 million DVD and VHS copies in its first day on the shelves, breaking the previous high of 7 million set last year by "Spider-Man."

"Economics are changing and favoring a DVD a lot more," said Bill Hoffmann, an entertainment columnist for the New York Post. "When you go to movies you just get a ticket stub … DVDs have all these extras which makes collectors want them. In some cases the extras are a bigger draw than actual film."

The "Nemo" DVD offers an ocean of extras including a filmmakers' visual commentary, deleted scenes and recording sessions, a documentary on the creation of the film, an option to turn your TV into a virtual aquarium with scenes from the movie, and an option to play "Fisharades."

Hoffmann also added that smaller movies can find an audience on the small screen.

"In many cases studios are now realizing they haven't given a film enough publicity on the first go round," said Hoffmann, pointing out that some films become sleeper hits and then surprise studios with their massive video sales.

A case in point is "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery." The original Mike Meyers spy spoof became a sleeper hit earning around $53 million in theaters. When the video was released, yea baby, another $53 million came rolling in.

The promise of steamy scenes that were originally cut also has movie fans grabbing up DVDs, said Hoffmann.

"’Supernova’ with James Spader and Robin Tunney had a lot of rewrites and it wasn't a very successful film. They cut it down to a PG-13 to get [a] wider teenage sci-fi audience. But when they released it on DVD suddenly it was the newer, sexier ‘Supernova’ with the actress running around topless."

Polan goes so far as to say "the release of the movie is an excuse to make a DVD." In fact, the popularity of advertising "previously unseen footage" has become carefully orchestrated, he said. "They are deliberately filming more footage to include in DVDs."

And studios will slowly dole out scrapped footage in edition after edition of a DVD to "squeeze as much money as they can from the same platform," he predicted.

But not everyone in Hollywood is counting their extra earnings with glee. Michael Bay, director of "Pearl Harbor" and "Armageddon," told Ain't It Cool News that DVDs can "take away some of the magic by showing everything.

"They're interesting, but it's almost like everyone's doing it. Before, it was kind of cool that some movies did it with the behind-the-scenes features."

Still, Hollywood has discovered that DVDs have the most coveted quality in town, the ability to resurrect a box-office bomb from the financial graveyard.

Following that logic, J-Lo could still get the last laugh even after her last disastrous screen scenes. The Bennifer bomb "Gigli" is likely to end up in the black once it hits video store shelves, said Hoffmann. "People want to see duds" without spending $10 on a ticket.

Polan agreed that DVDs can pull even box-office failures out of the hole.

"If a movie doesn't make the money in the theatrical release there are so many other stages you can make it in the game."