SAN DIEGO - Negotiations between Pioneer and DiscoVision Associates were expected to be concluded last week for Pioneer's acquisition of the latter firm's Carson, California laser disc pressing facility, shuttered recently when IBM and MCA, partners in the DiscoVision Associates operation, elected to withdraw from optical disc production (Record World, February 13).
The closure of the Carson plant, the only U.S. facility pressing discs for the consumer market, left U.S. laser disc manufacturers with the sole option of pressing discs at a Kofu, Japan plant operated by the Universal Pioneer Corporation, a Pioneer Electronics subsidiary.
Since censorship regulations in Japan are strict in regard to sexually explicit material, several U.S. manufacturers have had titles rejected by the operators of the Kofu plant. According to Paramount Pictures Corp. vice president, pay -TV and video distribution Bob Klingensmith, Paramount Home Video has not been able to obtain pressings of such PG -rated titles as "Escape from Alcatraz" and "First Monday in October" because of brief scenes in those films involving nudity.
Speaking at an ITA panel on videodisc systems, Pioneer Video president Ken Kai revealed the parent firm's plans for the acquisition of the Carson facility and left the door open for the custom pressing of any material, regardless of content or ratings. "I have no moral standards," said Kai of his planned custom pressing policy. Asked if 'X' - rated programming would be pressed, Kai responded that "I won't be opening the film can" to inspect material. "If a company's credit is good, we'll press their discs," he said. Should manufacturers of adult films elect to press their titles on optical discs - and there is every indication that many will - the laser camp will be the first videodisc system to offer such films in its program mix.
Among those sharing the panel with Pioneer's Kai were VHD Programs president Gary Dartnall and RCA Corporation group vice president Jim Alic, both of whom affirmed that the VHD and CED disc systems would maintain their policy of not pressing sexually explicit material.
In addition to Pioneer's impending acquisition of the facility formerly operated by DiscoVision Associates, Kai also revealed that his firm currently has some $20 million tied up in original productions for the laser disc format. Sixty programs are in development - under the aegis of subsidiary Pioneer Artists and of Optical Programming Associates, in which Pioneer is a partner - and some 30 of those programs are expected to be released. Music programming will figure prominently in Pioneer's software plans, with a large number of pop music -oriented titles, described by Kai as consisting largely of "middle-of-the-road material," as well as such operas as "Aida," "La Traviata" and "La Boheme" and the Broadway musical "Pippin." Kai extended an invitation to producers to submit material for possible release on laser disc. "I need good, interesting programs," he said. "I'll try anything and everything."
Echoing Kai's assertion of his firm's commitment to the laser disc system, NAP Consumer Electronics vice president, program development John Messerschmitt and Frank Price, marketing and sales manager for 3M Company (which operates the only other U.S. laser disc pressing facility) both stressed the interactive capabilities of the optical system. Those capabilities are currently under-utilized, said Price, whose firm recently made available a laser disc manual for producers and potential producers of interactive programs.
Although 3M has been involved exclusively in the pressing of laser discs for industrial uses, Price left open the possibility that the company may take on consumer oriented pressing in the future. His interest in the consumer acceptance of the laser disc is keen, he said, because "industrial users are consumers first and their perception of the laser disc's reliability affects their perception of the reliability of the system for industrial use."