This week, I talked on the phone with Kirk Hallam, owner and president of Roxbury Entertainment. We talked about the company’s DVD re-releases of the “Route 66” television series and an upcoming “Route 66” film, based on the 1960s TV show, that he is producing.
A lot of interesting information was revealed by Hallam during our 20-minute conversation:
Sales of the first volume of the “Route 66” DVDs were “encouraging.” Hallam wouldn’t reveal exact figures, but “I would say it exceeded our expectations, and encouraged us to put out more of the episodes.” Volume 2 of “Route 66’s” first season will be coming out Feb. 5. The first installment of Season Two is set for May.
As a special feature, “Route 66” co-star George Maharis will provide audio commentary on select episodes. That will happen with the May release. Commentary will likely be limited, Hallam said, to productions that Maharis can actually recall. “He does have an amazing memory, but he doesn’t remember all the episodes, that’s for sure.”
Roxbury is trying to ensure more uniform episode quality with future “Route 66” releases. Although a “very, very small percentage” of consumers complained about the first DVD compilation, “in order to make them happy with subsequent releases, we are in the process of transferring from fine-grain masters of film to high-definition digital so they all have the same quality … as with the best-of DVD we put out in 2005,” Hallam said. Fine-grain masters are duplicates of the original film when it was shot.
Hallam explained that Roxbury was forced to use videotape for a few episodes of the first DVD release. “There was some urgency,” he said. “We were trying to meet the street date and get them out before the holidays. We found we were not able to locate all the fine-grain masters in time to do that. They’re in vaults all up and down the East Coast. But we have them now.”
He said the original film stock of “Route 66” is in a vault in Burbank, Calif., stored by Screen Gems / Sony. “But the archivists have begged me not to use that original film,” he said.
Roxbury is also releasing budget-priced single discs of “Route 66.” A six-episode DVD, titled “Route 66 — Classic Episodes, Vol. 1,” will be released on Feb. 12 with a retail price of $14.98. It contains these episodes: “Eleven, the Hard Way,” “The Strengthening Angels,” “The Cat Jumped Over the Moon,” “Poor Little Kangaroo Rat,” “Soda Pop and Paper Flags” and “A Cage in Search of a Bird.”
On March 18, a three-episode DVD, titled “Route 66 — Super Series,” will be released for $9.98. “Eleven, the Hard Way,” “The Cat Jumped Over the Moon” and “Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing” are the episodes.
Hallam said those small best-of DVDs are being marketed to convenience stores and similar retailers. They will be released in the months between half-season compilations.
The “Route 66” feature film has a first draft of a script, and a director will be hired within a month. “It’s a very good script,” Hallam said. “It’s going to incorporate the characters and existential themes of the television series, but in a storyline that’s obviously modernized. It’s an action-comedy with a heart and a message, I’d say.
“Our storyline all takes place along Route 66,” he added. “Everything that happens is on or immediately adjacent to the highway, from Chicago to L.A.”
Production begins later this year, with a tentative release date of 2009. And unlike the television series, Hallam isn’t sure a certain Chevy product will be used. “It depends on what the major auto manufacturers want to do. It’s not necessarily going to be a Corvette,” he said.