/The Phantom Menace/ Hits DVD Page 2

The most compelling piece of the DVD is an unusually candid hour-long documentary edited down from more than 600 hours of behind-the-scenes footage. Teams of artists sweat bullets as master Lucas steps up to inspect the first set of storyboards. Producer Rick McCallum swears a blue streak upon seeing the deva s tation visited upon the production's Tatooine set following an overnight Tuni sian sand storm. Then there's Lucas's concession to cast and crew members - months into shooting the film - "We'll never be Titanic."

Perhaps not. But The Phantom Menace hardly washed out at the box office. With more than $900 million in ticket sales worldwide, it ranks as the second highest-grossing film ever, after the James Cameron epic.

But box-office swagger could soon go the way of Princess Leia's hairdo. After all, even Lucas is shooting digitally and advocating the direct-to-theater distribution of movies. So I asked him, is DVD simply a stepping stone to distributing movies digitally straight to set-top boxes in the home?

Lucas said he doesn't see movie theaters ever going away. "However," he added, "people do make cinema for the solitary experience - it's called television."

In addition to the extra income squeezed from the DVD distribution of the film, Lucas sees the DVD aftermarket as serving another, high er purpose. "The real advantage of the DVD," he said, "is that it makes cutting the film a little less painful. This is a chance to save all that work and energy and everything that [otherwise] seemed to get lost."

McCallum said that what really jumped out at him when watching the documentary "was the amount of weight I lost and gained and lost and gained during the shooting of the film." Unlike McCallum and most other cast and crew members, Lucas remained remarkably unaltered during the shooting. Does he employ a special-effects branch just to keep him looking good?

"Oh, sure," he said. "There's a special part of [Industrial Light & Magic] called the Dorian Gray Office. You go in there, and they make a perfect digital image of you. As long as that doesn't change, you don't change."