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page updated: 7/31/07



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 7/25/07 - 6/28/07)


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7/25/07

Okay, first up today, a quick reminder: Our DVD Sneak Peek 2007 panel will be held tomorrow morning (7/26, from 11 AM to Noon Pacific) in Room 5AB of the San Diego Convention Center. Todd and I will be moderating, and Adam and Sarah will be on hand as well. Our special guest panelists will include DVD producers Charles de Lauzirika (Twin Peaks: The Complete Series, Blade Runner: The Final Cut), Robert Meyer Burnett (Shoot 'Em Up, Valkyrie) and Javier Soto (Hellboy 2). I want to make it clear: We WILL be showing exclusive footage from both Twin Peaks and Blade Runner - stuff you won't see anywhere else. We'll also answer audience questions if time permits. As I mentioned yesterday, Sarah will have our limited edition T-shirts available for sale during the panel for just $10. It's going to be a lot of fun, as always, and you'll be seeing some VERY cool things, so we hope to see you there!

For those who might be interested, I'll also be participating with Mark Altman, Jeff Bond, Robert Meyer Burnett, Anthony Pascale and Daren Dochterman in the Living Long and Prospering: Celebrating 40 Years of Star Trek panel on Thursday, from 6 to 7 PM, also in Room 5AB.

Now then... one other Comic-Con note: Our old friend Andy Mangels, who was on our DVD panel last year, is going to be all over the place in San Diego. You'll find him doing DVD and book signings, participating in panel discussions, and even hosting the Scribe Awards at the show. Click here for his schedule if you're interested in saying hello. Be sure to bring your Filmmation DVDs for him to sign!

And speaking of Scribes, our own Adam Jahnke has been nominated for a media tie-in award again this year for his work with Lloyd Kauffman on Toxic Avenger: The Novel. If you're at the Con on Sunday afternoon, be sure to drop by and show your support. We're all rooting for him!

Now then... Todd's here in Orange County, having just returned from EMA with us, and he's been unusually prolific. We've got a rare new Doogan's Views for you today, containing his early thoughts EMA and also quick reviews of Paramount's Zødiac, Lionsgate's The Monster Squad: 20th Anniversary Edition and Manga's Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society (Limited Edition). He's also working on the Day Four EMA report, while I finish Day Three (both will be posted early next week, after we return from Comic-Con). Hope you enjoy!

Okay, I know I said that we'd catch up with release news on Monday, but we might as well try to get some of it out of the way now, because no doubt there will be more announcement news to talk about from the Con when we get back. So let's get to it...

First up, Warner has announced American Pastime (7/17), Strictly Business (9/18), Deadly Friend, Dr. Giggles, Eyes of a Stranger, Someone's Watching Me, The Hand, From Beyond the Grave, a Twisted Terror Collection (all the horror titles we just mentioned for SRP $49.92) and high-def versions of Gods and Generals (both formats), Gothika (Blu-ray), The Wild Bunch (both) and Wyatt Earp (both - all 9/25), The Reaping (DVD & both high-def) and an Absolutely Fabulous: White Box (BBC - both 10/16), Inside the Green Berets, Secrets of World War II, Heroes and Weapons of World War II, Gladiators of World War II (all BBC), Full House: The Complete Eighth Season and a Full House: The Complete Series Collection (all 11/6), and finally Gilmore Girls: The Complete Seventh Season and a Gilmore Girls: The Complete Series Collection (all 11/13).

As we mentioned the other day, New Line has officially confirmed that they'll be jumping into both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD later this year starting with the video release of Hairspray. Additional details are expected to follow in the weeks ahead. New Line has also announced the standard DVD release of Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane on 10/2, with Havoc 2: Normal Adolescent Behavior following on 10/16.

20th Century Fox has added Wrong Turn 2: Dead End to its 10/9 slate, with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season 2, Volume 3 following on 10/23.

MGM has set Teachers, Nobody's Perfect, Ski School and Meatballs 4 for release on 8/28, with Griffin & Phoenix set for 9/11, and Two Weeks, The Flying Scotsman and A Dog's Breakfast due 9/18.

On the Blu-ray Disc front, Fox has announced one new MGM title for release on the format on 9/11... Jeepers Creepers 2. Fox also informed us at the EMA conference that they're getting close to announcing more Blu-ray Disc titles of their own, and that when they do, they'll "be back in a big way." We hope to learn more very soon.

While we're talking Fox, you may recall how we mentioned a few days ago that Lucasfilm producer Rick McCallum told audiences at the Star Wars Celebration convention in Europe recently that the Star Wars films wouldn't be released in high-definition until one format emerged a winner. Industry sources have informed us that McCallum also added that if the high-def format war isn't resolved soon, the company might skip high-def disc altogether and release the films in HD via download only. Yikes!

In other release news, Sony has set Closure, The Valet, Married... with Children: The Complete Seventh Season and Holly Hobbie Best Friends Forever for DVD release on 9/18, along with a Blu-ray version of A Few Good Men. They've also set Black Book, Tekkon Kinkreet, Walking Tall: Lone Justice and King of Queens: The Complete Ninth Season for 9/25, along with Blu-ray versions of Black Book, Memoirs of a Geisha, Underworld: Unrated and Tekkon Kinkreet. We expect the studio to release Bram Stoker's Dracula on Blu-ray Disc on 10/2, with a Reign Over Me Blu-ray following on 10/9, and 20 Million Miles to Earth set to hit the format on 12/4.

Meanwhile, Buena Vista has announced that it's kicking off a Blu-ray Disc mall tour across the States, 8/17-19 at the Westfield Topanga Mall in Canoga Park, CA. The tour will offer interactive display stations, a mini-theater presentation, and will likely feature previews of Cars, Meet the Robinsons and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray. Additional stops on the tour will include South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, CA (8/24-26), Westfield North County in Escondido, CA (8/31-9/2), Westfield San Francisco in San Francisco, CA (9/7-9), Washington Square in Portland, OR (9/14-16), Westfield South Center in Seattle, WA (9/21-23), the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN (9/28-30), Orland Square in Orland Park, IL (10/5-7), Westfield West County in St. Louis, MO (10/12-14), Tyson Corner Center in McLean, VA (10/19-21), Roosevelt Field in Garden City, NY (10/26-28), Burlington Mall in Burlington, MA (11/9-11), King of Prussia in King of Prussia, PA (11/16-18), Circle Centre in Indianapolis, IN (11/23-25), Lennox Square in Atlanta, GA (11/30-12/2), The Galleria in Houston, TX (12/7-9), Barton Creek Square in Austin, TX (12/14-16) and finally Chandler Fashion Center in Chandler, AZ (12/21-23).

In terms of release news, Buena Vista has set Hanah Montana: Life is What You Make It and Johnny Kaphala: Back on the Road for 10/9, and Roger Corman's Eat My Dust: Supercharged Edition and The Intruder: Special Edition for 9/25. Cars has also been confirmed for Blu-ray Disc release (from Disney and Pixar) on 11/6.

Criterion has just revealed that its October DVD release slate will include John Huston's Under the Volcano (2 discs, Cat #410), Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (2 discs, #408), Gus Van Sant's Mala Noche (#407) and Terrance Malick's Days of Heaven (#409).

Universal has set Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season Three and Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Seventh Season for release on 10/9, with Magnum P.I.: The Complete Seventh Season following on 10/30 and a Curious George/Babe Two-Movie Collection set for 11/6.

Not done yet... Paramount has announced Wings: The Fifth Season for 11/6, along with a Chinatown: Special Collector's Edition and The Two Jakes: Special Collector's Edition. Christmas in South Park, Melrose Place: The Third Season and Perry Mason: The Second Season, Volume 2 follow on 11/13. Newly announced titles for October include American Gangster: The Complete First Season and I Love New York: The Complete First Season on 10/2.

Lionsgate has revealed that their Blu-ray Disc slate for August and September will include the animated Doctor Strange (8/14), National Lampoon's Van Wilder (8/21), Delta Farce (9/4), and The Condemned and House of 1000 Corpses (9/18).

While at EMA, we were able to confirm that Tartan will be releasing a number of titles exclusively in Blu-ray Disc format in both the U.S. and U.K. later this year, including Oldboy (in October or November).

Image Entertainment also informed us at the show that Caligula will be released in both HD formats later in 2007 or early in 2008, along with additional titles to be named.

Finally, we also learned at the EMA convention that BCI will begin releasing select titles on HD-DVD format (and possibly Blu-ray as well) sometime later in 2007. We expect additional details to follow in the weeks ahead.

Okay, that's it for now. We're off to San Diego. But never fear: We'll be back early tomorrow morning with more cool release news. We'll also have our EMA Day Three and Four posts up as soon as we return from San Diego early next week, along with a Monday rundown of all the DVD and high-def news out of Comic-Con.

Stay tuned!

7/24/07

All right... the EMA fun continues this afternoon, with our in-depth report on the events of Day Two at the convention. It's all the fun of being there (more or less), with none of that icky travel feeling. Or something. Anyway, we think you'll find it an entertaining read. It definitely captures the experience.

By the way, we've got a couple of quick announcements for you. First, we're already knee-deep in preparations for our Comic-Con DVD Sneak Peek 2007 panel, which happens this coming Thursday morning (11 AM) down at the San Diego Convention Center. So it may be that our release news wrap-up from the last week or so will have to be postponed until Monday, when we return to our regular hours of operation here at The Bits. EMA was a lot of fun, and Comic-Con should be even MORE fun, but boy... will we ever be glad to get things back to normal next week!

Anyway, the second bit of news we have today is for those you who plan to join us at Comic-Con. We've had many requests over the years for spiffy Digital Bits swag, but we've never really done any before. However, in honor of our 10th year, we've decided to change that this weekend. So Todd coined the slogan, Sarah did the graphics and the result is that on Thursday morning at our panel, we'll have 100 limited-edition Bits T-shirts available for sale for the super-bargain price of just $10 each. The shirts are available in Gray (sizes L, XL and a few XXL). We sprung for the good cotton on these bad boys (Hanes Beefy, baby!), not that scratchy 50/50 crap. So if you've ever been thinking, "You know... I wonder if The Bits guys will ever get around to making T-shirts for their readers...," here you go.

We give you The OFFICIAL Digital Bits/Comic-Con 2007 T-Shirt...

The OFFICIAL Digital Bits/Comic-Con 2007 T-Shirt

OOoohhhhhhhhhhhh...

Stay tuned!

7/23/07

Okay... we're kicking off our coverage of EMA 2007 with a report on our journey to Vegas, as well as a gallery of photos taken during and after the convention. You'll find all of that here at the main EMA 2007 page, which includes links to the HTF's forthcoming coverage as well.

Around the site today, we've also updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with lots more new DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD cover scans and Amazon purchase links (we appreciate the support)!

Also, we've kicked off THREE new Contests, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's Birdman and the Galaxy Trio: The Complete Series, Space Ghost and Dino Boy: The Complete Series, Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Sixth Season, Dallas: The Complete Seventh Season, the Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection and Warner's Film Noir Classic Collection: Volume 4, First Independent's Everything's Gone Green and Sunlight's The Search for John Gissing. All of the contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, August 5th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

We'll be back tomorrow with more EMA coverage and some other news too, so stay tuned!

7/22/07

We're checking in with a rare Sunday post for a couple of reasons...

First, Adam has posted a new Electric Theatre column to honor the memory of Sherman Torgan, the owner of the New Beverly Cinema in L.A., who sadly passed away last week.

Also, we've kicked off a new Digital Bits Power Buy today, in conjunction with DocDVD: You can get awesome deals on Pioneer's Elite Blu-ray Disc player, the BDP-94HD, as well as Pioneer's new Elite HDMI 1.3a receiver, the VSX-91TXH, which decodes both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. Click on the link to find out more about those.

Finally, here's a big piece of news that broke out of EMA: New Line informed retailers at the conference that they're going to start releasing their films on both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD formats later this year. The studio had originally announced that they planned to support both formats this year at CES in January, but they'd been hoping to use Warner's TotalHD combo format. However, with TotalHD delayed until at least early next year, New Line has apparently decided that they'll start their high-def releases in time for the holidays, beginning with the video release of their new Hairspray feature film. We'll have more on this as it becomes available.

We'll be back tomorrow, so stay tuned!

7/20/07

Yes... yes, I know. You guys have been REALLY patient. And we appreciate it. As you might have guessed, we didn't have the chance to make updates from the show at EMA in Las Vegas. Wireless access was surprisingly spotty at the Venetian, and the responsibilities of making sure our group was having a good time (not to mention helping to coordinate all the meetings and demos) took up so much time, that each of us ended getting only around four hours of sleep a night. We also quickly discovered that much of what we saw requires more processing time than we anticipated - our 70+ strong group experienced a LOT in just a few short days, that's for sure.

Once our program concluded on Wednesday night, Todd, Adam and I had still more plans in the offing. We've all been working together for many years now, but this was the most time we'd ever spent together - all three of us - in one place. That's just the nature of working on the Net these days. So bright and early yesterday morning, we saddled up the rental car and became tourists. In a single day, we drove from Vegas to the Hoover Dam, from there to Meteor Crater in Arizona, and then turned around and headed back to Los Angeles - something on the order of 18 hours of freeway driving. We got back this morning around 5:30 AM, and have each slept for less than a couple of hours. Not bad for a group of guys closing in on 40, we think. But we're absolutely dead to the world right now.

One thing's for sure: A good time was had by all, both at the EMA event and afterwards when it was just the three of us. For those of you who attended, thanks so much for coming. It was terrific to meet some of you for the first time (and some of you again!), having known many of you via e-mail and HTF posts for so long. I also especially want to thank all of our friends over at HTF (Ron, you and your guys are the best) and also Gord Lacey and the crew at TV Shows on DVD (ditto). And of course, all of us here at The Bits want to thank the folks at EMA, and all of the studio and HD format people who came to present to our group.

Both The Bits and HTF will have full coverage of EMA for those of you who couldn't be there starting on Monday, including lots of pictures and our impressions on the things we saw and experienced. And, as always, we'll catch you up on the latest release news too. In the meantime, here's a few pictures of our humble Bits crew - first all of us at EMA (left to right, that's Sarah, me, Todd and Adam), Ron Epstein of HTF and myself at the show, and finally Todd, Adam and I on the road yesterday near Meteor Crater, AZ. You can't tell from our obvious glee in those last two pictures, but we narrowly missed getting hit by lightning as we took them. In retrospect, it probably wasn't too smart of us to stand next to the only vertical metal object for miles during a thunderstorm, but that sign was just too damn cool to pass up. Sarah, probably wisely, didn't want to endure an entire day of driving in the car through 100-degree heat, so she didn't join us on our little misadventure...

The Bits crew at EMA 2007

Bill & Ron at EMA 2007

Knuckleheads at Meteor Crater

Knuckleheads at Meteor Crater

I don't know how Sarah puts up with the rest of us knuckleheads, I really don't.

Okay folks... that's it for now. See you all on Monday!

7/16/07

Morning, everyone! Well... this is a big week here at The Bits. We're off to Vegas with our friends from the Home Theater Forum to attend the EMA Expo (formerly VSDA, where the studios go to show off their upcoming titles to retailers). And as part of our joint 10th anniversary celebration, we've got a group of some 70 Bits readers and HTF members along with us. We've lined up a special slate of private events - studio demonstrations and the like - for our group to take in, so it's going to a lot of fun.

I'm bringing the laptop, so if circumstances (and wireless access) allow, we'll try to make a post each evening to catch you all up on the latest news and announcements from the show. We're also going to be taking lots of pictures, so watch for a gallery of those to be posted after we get back. In the meantime, just recognize that our posts may be a little more spotty than usual this week. Hope you understand.

Now then... first up today, our own Adam Jahnke (who's car pooling with me to Vegas later this morning), has posted a brand new installment of his Electric Theatre today. In this edition, he reviews Transformers, Rescue Dawn, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Live Free or Die Hard and Talk to Me, now playing at your local googleplex.

Also, as always, our own Russell Hammond has updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD cover art. Our Amazon pre-order links are also updated, so a portion of anything you purchase through our links will go to support our work here at The Bits. We very much appreciate it!

In announcement news today, Image Entertainment has revealed a new Caligula: Four-Disc Imperial Edition DVD for release on 10/2 (SRP $39.99). The set will include both the uncensored and unrated theatrical cut, as well as a pre-release version containing more never-before-seen footage. Extras will also be extensive, including audio commentary with Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren, a new interview with director Tinto Brass, 2 versions of the Making of Caligula documentary, hours of deleted and alternate footage, the soundtrack on CD, Gore Vidal's screenplay on DVD-ROM and much more. It sounds like an impressive set. You can read more here at Video Business.

Also, Warner has set Whiskey School for DVD release on 10/30 (for Polychrome).

Miramax will release Lasse Hallström's The Hoax on DVD on 10/16 (SRP $29.99). Extras will include audio commentary with Hallström and writer William Wheeler, a second commentary with producers Leslie Holleran and Josh Maurer, 13 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary, the Stranger than Fiction, Mike Wallace: Reflections on a Con and Business as Pleasure featurettes, an Easter egg and more.

Finally, Lionsgate has revealed their August release slate, which will include a Brigitte Bardot Box Set (Naughty Girl, Love on a Pillow, The Vixen, Come Dance with Me and Two Weeks in September), a Luis Buñuel Box Set (Gran Casino and The Young One), The Dresden Files: Season One, a Saved by the Bell: Double Feature (Hawaiian Style and Wedding in Vegas), a UFC Box Set, Doodlebops: Get on the Bus!, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season 5 and The Doom Generation (repackaged) on 8/7, Acts of Death, Doctor Strange, Drunken Monkey and The Best of Saturday Night Live Collection: DVD 10-Pack on 8/14, Borderline Cult, a National Lampoon's Van Wilder Blu-Ray Disc, Malicious, I Pity the Fool and a Rob Zombie Box Set (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects: Unrated and a bonus disc that contains the 30 Days in Hell: The Making of The Devil's Rejects documentary) on 8/21, and I Love Miami, a Dr. T and the Women: Special Edition (I REALLY pity the fool who has to sit through that!), Grandes Comediantes, Grandes Luchadores, Care Bears: Fitness Fun, Care Bears: Gift of Caring and Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends: Bug-a-Boo Day Play on 8/28.

In other news around the Net this morning, it seems that Toshiba will be offering their HD-A2 HD-DVD player (plus 3 free discs) for $99 this week to attendees of the EMA convention in Las Vegas. You can read more here at Home Media. The HD-DVD camp is clearly working to get as many players into the market as possible for the upcoming holiday season, which could be make or break for the format.

On a related note, Variety has a very interesting story up today on the mounting pressure on Universal to go format neutral and support both Blu-ray as well as HD-DVD, like Paramount and Warner.

Back on the subject of moving hardware for a moment, it seems that Sony's $100 price cut to clear out all of its 60GB PS3 systems worked for them. According to the PS3 News site, Circuit City stores are sold out of the units. Indeed, a quick an informal survey of local retailers here in Orange County over the weekend found low or no stock on the units at many retailers. It'll be interesting to see if Sony offers a sale price on it's new 89GB unit before the holidays as well.

Finally today, there's interesting Indy and Star Wars news: At the Star Wars Celebration event in Europe this past weekend, George Lucas' longtime producer, Rick McCallum, spilled the beans on some interesting release plans at Lucasfilm. It seems that the first of several volumes of Young Indiana Jones episodes will finally be released on DVD on 10/13. According to this link at the official Star Wars blog, the first batch of discs will street in October, followed by another in January and one more right after the theatrical release of Indy IV. There's an audio recording at that link of some of McCallum's presentation. Several Bits readers who were on hand at the event have e-mailed us to say that Rick also told the gathering that the Star Wars films will NOT be released in high-definition until there is a clear winner in the Blu-ray Disc/HD-DVD format war (implying that they'll eventually be released on only one of the two formats). I expect we'll hear more about this next week at Comic-Con in San Diego. By the way, the audio recording also offers some new information on the planned Star Wars live action series, as well as the future prospects for a theatrical release of the Star Wars films in 3-D. It's worth checking out.

Okay, that's it for today. Time to hit the road. Have a great Monday and we'll try to check in with you again tomorrow from EMA. Peace out!

7/12/07

Okay... we've checked with 20th Century Fox on that EzyDVD Star Wars: The Ultimate Collection we mentioned yesterday. Turns out it's exactly what we thought it was. This is NOT the super-ultimate box set we've all been hoping for, just a retailer assembled bundle of all of the previously released DVDs sets. The retailer's page has since been updated with pictures of the discs to clarify this. So that settles that.

Now then... we have a little bit more release news for you this afternoon.

First, Paramount has set The Sarah Silverman Program: Season One for release on 10/2, Girlfriends: The Second Season and CSI: NY: The Third Season for 10/9, The L Word: The Complete Fourth Season for 10/23, and American Gangster: The Complete First Season, I Love Lucy: The Complete Series, NCIS: The Fourth Season and Avatar: The Last Airbender - Book 3: Fire, Volume 1 on 10/30.

Speaking of Fox, the studio has set a Jingle All the Way: Family Fun Edition for release on 10/16.

Also on the DVD front, Image Entertainment has set the National Film Preservation Foundation's 4-disc Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film - 1900-1934 for release in October (10/16 - SRP $89.99). The 12 ½ hour set will include a 200-page book, along with 4 feature films and some 44 vintage documentaries, cartoons, newsreels, serial episodes and PSAs exploring various social issues. You can read more on the set here and also here at Variety.

In Blu-ray news today, Sony BMG has announced David Gilmour: Remember That Night for release on Blu-ray Disc on 9/18.

Starz (Anchor Bay) has revealed that Halloween and both its Evil Dead films and Dawn of the Dead films will all be released on Blu-ray Disc this October (exact street dates TBA)! Here's hoping that the Highlander films, Ghost in the Shell and other great titles will follow.

Other recent or soon to be official Blu-ray exclusive announcements include Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City (Sony BMG - 8/28), Delta Farce (Lionsgate - 9/4), A Few Good Men (Sony - 9/18), Bug (Lionsgate - 9/25), The Hoax (Miramax - 10/16) and The Invisible (BVHE - 10/16).

On the BD hardware front, Wal-Mart is offering a pretty nice deal for those interested in buying a Blu-ray player. They're offering Sony's new BDP-S300 player for $488, plus they're bundling two titles (Open Season and Gridiron Gang) right in the box. On top of that, Sony has a mail-in offer for 5 free movies with the purchase any player, making this a pretty sweet deal. You can read more here at HollywoodinHi-Def.com.

Also, could this be Denon's forthcoming Blu-ray Disc player, or is it just a marketing/design mock-up? Almost certainly, it's the latter. But the Coroflot industrial design website has posted photos of a BD player (the DVD-HD8910) and a new 7.1 media center/receiver as well (the AVR-HD8910). The text indicates that the receiver comes equipped with a 2TB built-in hard drive (!) and a direct connection to the iTunes music store. And both are... well, darned funky looking. Here's a gander...

Denon Blu-ray player and Receiver

This image is taken from a full-page Denon brochure for the units, available here. Real or not (and we think it's almost certainly not - it's just a design flight of fancy), it's certainly... well, interesting. Yikes!

On the HD-DVD front, Digital Leisure has announced that the Dragon's Lair interactive game will appear on the format on 8/15. The game had previously only been available on Blu-ray. The company is also planning to release Space Ace and Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp in both HD formats later this year.

Finally today, another announcement: Writer/director Hal Masonberg is trying to rally fan support to encourage Screen Gems to release The Plague: The Writers & Director's Cut on DVD. He's been a longtime Bits reader, so we're happy to help him out. If you want to join Hal's effort, please visit his Spreading The Plague website and sign up.

Stay tuned!

7/11/07

Afternoon, folks! We've got more news, some new contests and lots of cover art for you to check out today.

First though... here's one for The Rumor Mill. Australian online retailer EzyDVD has a listing for a 12-disc Star Wars: The Ultimate Collection, even though Fox and Lucasfilm have both said that no such release is planned this year. We suspect that it might just be a set of all the previous DVD releases of these films gathered in one pack, but we'll try to learn more.

Now let's have some official release news... Warner has announced a number of new titles today, including the Looney Tunes: Golden Collection - Volume 5 and the Looney Tunes: Spotlight Collection - Volume 5 both on 10/30. More details will follow. Also newly announced by Warner are NBA Champions 2007: San Antonio Spurs (on 9/4), a Selena: 10th Anniversary Special Edition and the BBC's Ballykissangel: Complete Collection (9/18), the Craziest Christmas Collection (10/2 - includes Tom and Jerry: Paws for a Holiday, Scooby-Doo: Winter Wonderdog and Looney Tunes: Bah Humduck), National Geographic's Engineering Egypt (10/16), The Adventures of Aquaman: Collection, The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians and National Geographic's World's Last Great Places Collection Giftset (10/23), the BBC's The Day of the Triffids, Doctor Who: Ep.123 - Time Flight and Doctor Who: Ep.124 - Arc of Infinity as well as National Geographic's Nefertiti and the Lost Dynasty (11/6), and the BBC's Black Books: The Complete Third Series and The Complete Black Book (11/13).

Also today, Infinity Entertainment has announced the DVD release of Hopalong Cassidy: The Complete Television Collection on 8/7. The 12-disc set (SRP $79.98) will contain all 52 classic episodes along with 10 bonus films staring Hopalong (he appeared in some 66 such films in the 30s and 40s). Also included is the Public Hero #1 documentary from Starz Encore's Western Channel, featuring Hoppy's widow Grace Bradley Boyd, actor Dennis Weaver and film critic/historian Leonard Maltin.

Infinity has also announced The Adventures of Jim Bowie: The Complete Collection (also due 8/7), which includes all 76 episodes on 10 discs (SRP $69.98).

In news around the Net today, Microsoft has announced that they have no planned price cuts for their Xbox 360 game system. Many in the industry, including myself, had expected that they would drop the price in response to Sony's new $100 PS3 price reduction, however yesterday's Bloomberg story hinted that the system isn't yet profitable enough (especially with the company's recent move to address 360 technical problems) to allow this. You can read more here at Home Media.

Also, ars technica has a story up on a new microholography process being employed by the Institute of Optics and Optical Technologies at the Technical University of Berlin which reportedly allows up to 500GB of data storage on a DVD-sized disc. If disc-based media survives long-term, some form of this basic concept is almost certainly going to play a role.

Around the site today, we've kicked off 2 new Contests giving you the chance to take hope copies of Warner's The New Adventures of Superman, The Astronaut Farmer, The Esther Williams Collection: Volume 1, Classic Musicals from The Dream Factory: Volume 2 and Carlos Oscar: Life is Crazy Good!, as well as New Line's The Last Mimzy. Both contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, July 22nd. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

We've got some cool new cover art for you today... here's a look at HBO's Entourage: Season Three, Part Two (10/2), Warner's The Jazz Singer: Three-Disc Deluxe Edition (10/16), Troy: Director's Cut - Two-Disc Special Edition and Troy: Director's Cut Blu-ray Disc (both 9/18), Sony's The Lives of Others and Immortal Beloved Blu-ray Discs (both 8/21), Infinity's Hopalong Cassidy: The Complete Television Collection, and Fox's 28 Weeks Later (10/9) and Family Guy: Volume Five (9/18). Amazon pre-order links are provided where available...

Entourage: Season Three, Part TwoThe Jazz Singer: Three-Disc Deluxe EditionTroy: Director's Cut - Two-Disc Special Edition

Troy: Director's Cut (Blu-ray Disc)The Lives of Others (Blu-ray Disc)Immortal Beloved (Blu-ray Disc)

Hopalong Cassidy: The Complete Television Collection28 Weeks LaterFamily Guy: Volume Five

Finally today, something of an announcement: The Digital Bits and a number of other online sites and bloggers are contributing to a new industry-sponsored website called HollywoodinHiDef.com. The site is dedicated to discussion of the latest in high-definition home entertainment and the Blu-ray Disc format in particular, and is supported by Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios among other companies. You'll find a wide variety of news, features, reviews, exclusive interviews and other information about the future of high-definition home entertainment. 20-year veteran Hollywood journalist Scott Hettrick (Daily Variety, Video Business) is contributing a regular blog and editorial services. I want to make it clear that The Bits' involvement is voluntary and we're not getting paid for it. We're doing it because, like Scott and many others who have been involved with this industry for years, we believe that Blu-ray Disc is almost certain to emerge the winner in the high-def format war based on current sales trends and the format's overwhelming hardware and software support. Says Hettrick, "From a marketing and industry support standpoint, I think that they really have a far better chance of being successful." We obviously agree. You can read more on this here at Home Media and here at Video Business, and of course you can visit the site itself at the link above.

Back with more tomorrow, so stay tuned...

7/10/07

Okay... we're so busy right now, I can't even tell you. We're getting ready for EMA, Comic-Con and a lot more - a good problem certainly but the days are VERY long right now. By the way, we'll have more on Comic-Con in a minute.

Let's start with some new release news this afternoon. 20th Century Fox has announced the DVD release of 28 Weeks Later on 10/9. The DVD (SRP $29.98) will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary with director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and co-writer Enrique Lopez Lavigne, 3 featurettes (Code Red: The Making of 28 Weeks Later, The Infected and Getting into the Action), 13 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary, the 28 Days Later: The Aftermath Flash-animated graphic novel and the film's theatrical trailer. That same day, you'll also be able to purchase a 28 Days/Weeks Later Two-Pack Collection (SRP $34.98) containing both films. We expect that Blu-ray Disc versions will be announced soon, but that's not yet confirmed.

Also coming from Fox on 9/18 is Family Guy: Volume 5. The 3-disc set (SRP $39.98) will include 13 episodes from the show's fifth season, 38 deleted scenes, audio commentary on each episode with Seth MacFarlane and members of the cast and crew, 3 animatic episodes with optional commentary and 2 featurettes (Drawing Peter and Toys, Toys Galore).

Fox has also announced The Tripper: Unrated for release on 10/30, and Shark: Season One on 10/2.

In other news, HBO has announced the DVD release of Entourage: Season 3, Part 2 on 10/2. The 2-disc set (SRP $39.98) will include 8 episodes in anamorphic widescreen video, the Anatomy of Entourage featurette, footage from the Museum of Television and Radio panel with the cast and episode audio commentaries.

Meanwhile, in addition to the Troy: Unrated Director's Cut we mentioned yesterday (due 9/18), Warner has also announced a Troy: Ultimate Collector's Edition (SRP $39.92). The Ultimate release includes the same 2-disc DVD extras as the Unrated Director's Cut (these extras are included on both high-def versions as well), but adds some cool swag, including The Art of Troy photo book, behind-the-scenes photos and select pages from the film's shooting script.

Warner has also announced the DVD release of the animated Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue: Volume 1 on 10/30 (SRP $14.97), as well as Robot Chicken: Season 2 - Uncensored (SRP $29.98) on 9/4. Robot Chicken will include 20 episodes on 2 discs, plus a bonus Christmas episode, deleted scenes and animatics, commentaries on every episode, behind-the-scenes footage, video blogs, a gag reel, a slide show and the Freedom Rock promotion.

Also today, Buena Vista has set 8 Simple Rules: The Complete First Season and Home Improvement: The Complete Seventh Season for release on 8/7. 8 Simple Rules will include 28 episodes on 3 discs and a blooper reel (SRP $23.99). Home Improvement will include 25 episodes on 3 discs and a blooper reel (SRP also $23.99).

And Paramount has set the Nicolas Cage sci-fi actioner Next for release on both DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD on 9/25. Additional details will follow when available.

In hardware news, Sharp has just announced a new Blu-ray Disc player - the BD-HP20S - for release in the 4th quarter. The player will feature HDMI 1.3, TrueHD and DTS HD support, a new "quick start" feature to speed up disc load times and more. No word yet on price.

Samsung has announced that it has a 3rd generation Blu-ray player - the BD-P1400 - in development for release later this year as well. The player will support Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD, and will include a built-in Ethernet port - something previously only available on HD-DVD players (other than Sony's Blu-ray ready PS3). You can read more at Video Business.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg.com has posted a story on Sony's PS3 price cut. Somewhat surprisingly, the story quotes an analyst for industry research firm Envisioneering Group as saying that the PS3 is already profitable for Sony. Here's the relevant text:

Sony can cut prices because the company has fixed production problems with a diode used in the PlayStation 3's Blu-ray disk player, said Tretton, who is based in Foster City, California. He declined to discuss costs for the console.

Clearing up the trouble made PlayStation 3 profitable several months ago, giving the company room to cut prices, analyst Doherty said. Microsoft still loses money on each Xbox 360 it sells, he said. "Any price cut they try to make puts them more into the red,'' Doherty said.


We can't verify any of that, but it's certainly interesting. Okay... that's the major software and hardware news today. Now for some other announcements.

First up, don't forget that tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday), Todd and I make our appearance on the Culture Shocks radio program with Barry Lynn. We recorded the interview last Friday, and it runs about 20 minutes. You can listen online via streaming audio at the show's website. We expect to be on around 5:30 PM Eastern (the show starts at 5). Barry's a longtime reader and he's definitely plugged into the world of DVD and high-definition, so it's a good discussion. We talk about DVD, the new HD formats, DVD double-dips and more.

Also, we're VERY pleased today to announce official details on our annual Comic-Con panel. We help kick off the show Thursday morning (7/26) down at the San Diego Convention Center, and we're doing it in a big way. Here's the official schedule listing:

11:00-12:00 - DVD Sneak Peak 2007

Join Bill Hunt and Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits.com, along with DVD producers Charles de Lauzirika (Blade Runner: The Final Cut; Twin Peaks: The Complete Series), Robert Meyer Burnett (Shoot 'Em Up, Valkyrie), and Javier Soto (Hellboy 2), as they offer exclusive sneak peeks of great upcoming DVD and high-def special editions in the works for release later this year. Exclusive footage from Blade Runner and Twin Peaks will be shown. Q&A will follow if time permits. Room 5AB

See? We weren't kidding when we told you we've been showing you something cool! That's right, we're going to give you the VERY FIRST LOOK anywhere at both Blade Runner: The Final Cut and Twin Peaks: The Complete Series! If you're a fan of either title, you're NOT going to want to miss our panel. You can find lots more schedule details here at the official Comic-Con website. We should also note that if you're a Blade Runner fan, you don't want to miss Warner's own panel in Hall H (3:15-4:45 on Friday) - Ridley Scott himself will be there, along with futurist Syd Mead and others. Mead is also holding his own Blade Runner panel on Thursday afternoon (after ours at 1:30-2:30) in Room 6B. You can bet we'll be on hand, so we hope to see you there!

Also, while we're on the subject of Comic-Con, our very own Adam Jahnke has been nominated once again for a Scribe Award by the The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Adam and Uncle Lloyd Kauffman are both up in the Best Novel - Adapted category for their Toxic Avenger: The Novel. The Awards ceremony will be held on Sunday at the Con from 2:00-3:30 in Room 5AB. They're even going to be hosted by our old friend Andy Mangels. Adam, we'll definitely be rooting for you!

Okay, we'll be back early tomorrow with more, so stay tuned...

7/9/07

Afternoon, folks! Hope your weekend was a fine one. Let's get right to the news today...

Here's great news for you classic film fans... Warner has just announced the DVD release of Al Jolson's original 1927 The Jazz Singer in a 3-disc 80th Anniversary Edition. As many of you know, The Jazz Singer was the first feature-length film to have recorded dialogue and music synchronized to the images. The set will be released on 10/16 (SRP $39.98). The restored and remastered release will include vintage cartoons, rare Vitaphone shorts, early sound shorts and the new, feature-length documentary The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk. We have, of course, updated our original AFI Top 100 Films on DVD list (guess we'll have to post the new list as well one of these days). Now if only we could get an official release of The African Queen on disc...

Warner has more big news today... the studio will be releasing Wolfgang Petersen's all-new, unrated Troy: Director's Cut on 2-disc DVD, as well as Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD, on 9/18 (SRP $20.97 for DVD, $34.99 for each high-def version). The film itself will run an additional 30 minutes in length. Special features will include Troy Revisited: An Introduction by Wolfgang Petersen, 6 documentary featurettes (Troy in Focus, In the Thick of the Battle, From Ruins to Reality, Troy: An Effects Odyssey, Attacking Troy and Greek Ship Towing) and a theatrical trailer.

Warner is also releasing (for the BBC) a new Blue Planet: Seas of Life - Special Edition on 10/2 (SRP $59.98). The 5-disc set will contain new interviews, 80 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage (a 10-minute featurette for each episode), 4 new documentaries (Amazon Abyss, Dive to Shark Volcano, Between the Tides and Antarctica) and a photo gallery. You'll also be able to purchase a Planet Earth/Blue Planet: Special Collector's Set that same day that contains both documentary series on DVD for $119.99.

In other release news, Lionsgate is releasing a Cujo: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD on 9/25 (SRP $19.98). The disc will include audio commentary by director Lewis Teague and the Dog Days: The Making of Cujo 3-part documentary (includes new interviews with Teague, director of photography Jan de Bont, producers Daniel H. Blatt and Robert Singer, actor Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, Stephen King's biographer Douglas E. Winter and more).

Also on 9/25, Genius Products and ESPN will be releasing the 8-part dramatic series, The Bronx Is Burning, on DVD. The series follows the New York Yankees in the famous summer of 1977. The 3-disc set (SRP $39.92) will include more than 2 hours of bonus content, including new interviews with George Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson, complete 1977 Yankee statistics, in-depth player bios, featurettes and more.

For those of you who have been thinking about picking up a Sony PS3 but were a little sticky on the price tag, Sony has just dropped the $599 60GB version by $100. That puts the PS3 at $499. You can read more at CNN and Video Business. Some in the industry expect that Microsoft may drop the price of their Xbox 360 in response. Not surprisingly, sales at Amazon of the PS3 are up 2800% today (according to Amazon's Movers and Shakers list).

Around the site today, our own Russell Hammond has updated Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD cover art, as well as Amazon pre-order links, as usual. Be sure to check it out.

Also, we've got some news in The Rumor Mill this morning that's going to make you Disney Blu-ray Disc fans very excited... and maybe sci-fi fans too. Don't miss it.

And finally today, Sarah's got something very special for you Harry Potter fans: A gallery of photos taken yesterday at the Hollywood premiere of Warner's new Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The Chinese Theatre was a madhouse, let me tell you. Muggles (especially the teenaged female variety) were out in serious numbers to scream and swoon at the film's stars. Enjoy!

Stay tuned...

7/6/07

We've got a quick follow-up on that story about the European Union from yesterday. There's an IDG News Service story out of Paris ( posted on PC World.ca ), that indicates that the EU began investigating the Hollywood studios and the backers of BOTH high-def formats on its own initiative. This began in early June. From the story: "There have been no complaints from companies in the industry," said Audrey Lemonnier, press officer for the cabinet of European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes. This is at odds with information in the Wall Street Journal story we linked to yesterday. However, the WSJ story apparently features input from unnamed sources (presumably at some of the Hollywood studios under investigation) who have come to believe, based on the specific documents requested and questions asked by the EU, that the focus has shifted more to Blu-ray in the last couple of weeks. The WSJ story also indicates that the HD-DVD camp has been lobbying the commission to do exactly that. We'll keep an eye on this for you, but our guess is that it's all going to come to nothing. In fact, if the EU is truly investigating both formats, Universal's exclusive relationship with HD-DVD would have to be just as subject to scrutiny. We're guessing there's plenty of closeted skeletons to go around. It sure is fascinating, isn't it?

Just a quick announcement: Todd and I are going to be doing an interview with Barry Lynn for his Culture Shocks radio program this afternoon. We first spoke with Barry about DVD issues a few years ago, and it's always interesting talking with him. The interview will run about 20 minutes and is being taped to air next Wednesday (7/11) starting at about 5PM Eastern (2PM Pacific). You'll be able to hear it on all the broadcast stations around the country that carry his show (see his website linked above for all the listings) as well as XM Channel 159. You can also listen live online on the site.

Okay... let's have some announcements. First up, Warner is releasing Murder Game on DVD on 9/4.

And Universal has set The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper: Volume One for release on 9/18. They've also announced that Bickford Shmeckler's Cool Ideas is moving from 8/7 to 8/21, and that 30 Rock is being released in 30 Rock: Season 1, Volume 1 and 30 Rock: Season 1, Volume 2 editions on 9/4 (SRP $26.98 each) in addition to the complete season version ($49.98) available that same day.

By the way, if release announcements have seemed slow this week, it's due to the July 4th holiday - a lot of studio execs have taken this week off. Also, you're likely to see a lot more release news later this month timed to coincide with the EMA conference (formerly VSDA) and Comic-Con. We'll be at both events to cover all the details for you.

Here at the site, we've updated many of the DVD and HD format stats we track ( above), so be sure to check them out.

Finally this morning, I wanted to remind you all that this Saturday (tomorrow) is the big LIVE EARTH concert event here in the States and all around the globe. I know there's still some out there who think Global Warming is a political conspiracy, but screw the politics. I'm a big believer in science and let me tell you... the science here is ROCK solid. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise (to avoid another Soapbox controversy, that's as much as I'll say here - I'll be happy to send links to the latest scientific research to anyone who e-mails me). Regardless of all that... this is just gonna be 24 hours of GREAT live music. You've got Foo Fighters, Roger Waters, Smashing Pumpkins, Madonna, Bon Jovi, Snoop Dogg, Beastie Boys, Genesis, Bloc Party, Duran Duran, Metallica, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Spinal Tap (yes, you read that right) and many more. Capping it all off, my favorite band, The Police, are playing too. And our own Jeff Kleist would like me to take this opportunity to remind you that there may be international acts that you've never heard of that you'll be able to see live in the early AM tomorrow. He's personally worked to bring a bunch of them to the U.S. in the past, and is hoping that Live Earth will allow many more people to see what they're missing. So be sure to set that TiVo and check out Abington Boys School (aka TM Revolution), Kumi Koda, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Rip Slyme, Bonnie Pink and others on the Live Earth Tokyo stage . In fact, you'll be able to see and hear ALL of these great concert performances tomorrow: NBC is broadcasting highlights, Sundance and Universal HD (in high-definition!) will be live all day, it'll be on Bravo, MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo... even XM and Sirius are both getting in on the act all day long if you have satellite radio (they have each concert event on a separate channel). Plus, you can bet there will be a DVD release eventually, and we're hoping even Blu-ray and HD-DVD releases too. So be sure to check it out, enjoy some outstanding music and maybe you'll learn a few things too. It should be fun.

And with that, have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday. Peace out.

7/5/07

Hey Everyone!

Sorry we disappeared there for a couple of days. We'd planned to take the 4th of July holiday off, of course, but we'd hoped to update the site on the 3rd. Unfortunately, while we were travelling, our Wi-Fi access was spotty and we weren't able to connect with the old Networld. Ah well. Technology is a fickle mistress.

Anyway, let's catch you up on some release news.

First, 20th Century Fox has set A Dog's Breakfast for DVD release on 9/18.

Sony has announced Blue Smoke and Carolina Moon DVDs for 9/11, along with a Blu-ray Disc version of The Replacement Killers: Extended Cut.

Meanwhile, Universal has set The Starter Wife and Las Vegas: Season Four for release on 9/11. Georgia Rule arrives on DVD on 9/4. And Cat People, Patch Adams and The Getaway street on HD-DVD on 9/25.

New Line has set Gracie for release on 9/18.

Finally, Warner has revealed a number of new titles including Murder Game (on 9/4), Smallville: The Complete Sixth Season (on 9/18 on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD), Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Ninth Season (also 9/18), D.L. Hughley: Unapologetic (9/25), Galapagos (for the BBC on 10/2 on Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD as well as DVD), Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi (10/9) and Subway Stories (on 10/16).

We've got a little bit of new cover art for you today: Buena Vista's What About Brian: The Complete Series (9/25), Universal's preliminary art for 30 Rock: Season 1 (9/4) and Paramount's Funny Face: 50th Anniversary Edition (10/2)....

What About Brian: The Complete Series30 Rock: Season 1Funny Face: 50th Anniversary Edition

And around the Net today, here's an indication of just how bitterly this high-def format war is being fought (and how desperate the HD-DVD camp is becoming in battling Blu-ray Disc). The Wall Street Journal today has a story on how the European Union's European Commission is investigating the HD format war. Specifically, Microsoft and Toshiba have asked the EU to investigate the Blu-ray camp for anti-trust violations (a tactic they've tried unsuccessfully here in the U.S. in the past as well). Here's the relevant text from the story: "The HD DVD camp has been lobbying the commission to draw attention to Blu-ray's tactics in the movie capital in a bid to force more studios to put their product on HD DVD, according to people familiar with the situation." In other words, the HD-DVD camp can't seem to win this war based on consumer sales alone, even after slashing their hardware prices, so now they're trying other measures to try to force the many Blu-ray exclusive Hollywood studios to support their format too.

This is what you need to know: The Christmas shopping season this year is almost certainly going to make or break HD-DVD. The HD-DVD camp knows this as well as anyone. (We suspect that this is one of the reasons Warner has delayed their TotalHD combo plans until early next year - after the holidays to see how things play out.) The HD-DVD camp's media rhetoric seems to have shifted dramatically in recent months from how they're going to win to how they're going to survive. They must know that if software sales trends continue the way they have so far this year in favor of Blu-ray, many other retailers are going to follow Blockbuster in favoring that format alone. So the HD-DVD camp is doing everything they can just to stay in the game, from additional hardware price cuts, to announcements like "HD-DVD gets 1000 movies from Amazon" (except not really because they haven't been made yet and the deal - according to Amazon - is non-exclusive and open to Blu-ray as well) and on and on. But here is the reality: According to Tom Adams, president of Adams Media (from the WSJ story), 105,000 stand-alone Blu-ray players have sold to date compared to about 150,000 HD-DVD players. However, 1.5 million PlayStation 3s are in the hands of consumers (which can all play Blu-ray movies) compared to 160,000 who have purchased HD-DVD add-on drives for the Xbox 360. So the market right now is roughly 1.6 million Blu-ray capable machines compared to 310,000 HD-DVD machines. Even if only a small fraction of PS3 owners are watching movies (and given the 2 or 3 to 1 Blu-ray software sales edge despite the smaller number of stand-alone Blu-ray machines in the market, at least some MUST be), there's still no contest. Compounding the HD-DVD camp's problems, their stand-alone hardware sales forecasts are being downgraded even despite dramatic hardware price cuts, while Blu-ray stand-alone hardware prices are slowly but steadily dropping too. In other words, price is the only advantage the HD-DVD camp has left... and by this time next year that advantage is likely to largely evaporate. (Though we wouldn't be shocked to see Toshiba cut their player prices to $199 or even lower for the holidays in a last ditch attempt to move large numbers of units.)

What all this means to you, is that Blu-ray is rapidly becoming the clear choice. In our opinion, there's just no chance that HD-DVD is going to win this format war, and the HD-DVD camp's increasingly desperate moves now should make that obvious to all. With Blu-ray hardware prices dropping, and with Fox and MGM about to start adding their catalog titles to the BD exclusive title slate of Disney, Sony, Lionsgate and now Anchor Bay/Starz (not to mention all the great BD titles coming from Warner and Paramount), if you've been thinking about getting into high-def discs, now's a great time to jump in with Blu-ray. And if you'd rather wait a little longer for lower prices and greater hardware and software selection... there's still nothing wrong with existing DVD in the meantime. Regardless, we've said from the very beginning that this HD format war wasn't going to be good for anyone. But the writing seems to be on the wall at this point and, with a little luck, we'll see the last gasps of this skirmish play out by Christmas. At this rate, the CES convention in January 2008 is likely to be VERY interesting indeed.

Stay tuned...

7/2/07

Morning, everyone!

It's likely to be a fairly slow news week, what with the Fourth of July holiday here in the States, although we are anticipating the possibility of at least one big announcement over the next few days. We'll be sure to chime in if it happens.

First things first today. Our own Russell Hammond has once again updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD cover art and Amazon.com pre-order links. There's lots of new stuff to see, so don't miss it!

In terms of announcement news this morning, Warner has set Galapagos for DVD release on 10/2 (for the BBC), along with the A Room with a View: Special Edition on both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD. They have also set a Roots: The Complete Collection 10-disc DVD box set (SRP $119.82, with exclusive bonus disc) and Roots: The Next Generations ($59.98) for release on 10/9.

Also, Universal has set Las Vegas: Season Four and The Starter Wife for release on 9/11.

Around the Net this morning, Ken Pierce has written a very interesting companion argument to my original Soapbox as to why Blu-ray Disc is likely to dominate the HD format war. Ken's looked at the biggest films of the last few years and calculated the percentages of those films, by studio grosses, that are available for release on each format. It's called By The Numbers, and you'll find it in Ken's Random Thoughts blog over at the Pixel Perfect website. This is our chief argument exactly - content is everything and Blu-ray dominates in terms of studio support.

And here at The Bits today, we've updated some of the DVD and high-def format stats we track (above), including the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD software sales numbers. For the week ending 6/24, Blu-ray is once again ahead by a 70/30 margin.

Finally today, we have some new cover art for you. First is Buena Vista's Lost: The Complete Third Season - The Unexplored Experience (12/11), along with Lionsgate's Monster Squad: Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition (7/24). Finally, we have what looks to be French temp packaging for Sony's forthcoming Spider-Man Trilogy on Blu-ray Disc (TBA) from alapage.com.

Lost: The Complete Third Season - The Unexplored Experience Monster Squad: Two-Disc 20th Anniversary EditionSpider-Man Trilogy (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned...

6/29/07

It's a very slow news day so far here at The Bits today, but that's fine because we've got us some Comic-Con panel planning to do. We'll tell you more about that next week, but suffice it to say that if you're going to be down at the Con in San Diego next month, you DEFINITELY want to drop by our Thursday morning event. We are going to show some VERY cool and exclusive-to-our-panel footage from some VERY cool upcoming DVD and high-def releases. Seriously, if you pass it up, you WILL be bummed once you learn what we're planning to show you. 'Nuff for now.

Okay, we do have just a couple DVD-related news items for you this morning...

First, Sony has set Bobby Z and Wind Chill for DVD release on 9/4.

Also Warner has announced the animated Charlie & Lola: Volume 6: How Many Minutes Until Christmas. Look for it in stores on 10/16.

And Genius Products has set French director Jean-Claude Brisseau's surrealistic and sensual Exterminating Angels for DVD release on 7/24 (SRP $24.95). The film was an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.

Around the Net this morning, there's yet another Blu-ray vs HD-DVD editorial available today that's worth your reading time - Rob Fahey's The Blu Corner over at GamesIndustry.biz. It seems more industry watchers every day are joining us in choosing Blu-ray Disc in this format war.

Finally today, we'd be remiss if we didn't take a moment to acknowledge that today is our very own Todd Doogan's birthday! Yes, it's true... Todd's getting so damn old that he creaks by now. Never fear though, we've sent large supplies of One-a-Day Senior and prune juice his way. Be sure to drop Todd an e-mail and wish him a happy happy if you get the chance today. Skol, Doogan! Jahnke and I'll buy you a beer at EMA in a couple weeks. ;)

Okay... that's all for now. See you Monday. Have a great weekend!

(LATE UPDATE - 6/28/07 - 5:15 PM PDT)

Well... it seems as if the chief hurdle causing the delay of additional Fox and MGM Blu-ray Disc titles may finally have been cleared. BD+ Technologies LLC has just completed the specs, licensing program and necessary infrastructure required to allow the BD supporting to studios to implement BD+ protection on future software releases. Here's the official press release. You'll note in particular the quotes by Fox's Mike Dunn and MGM's Eric Doctorow...

BD+ Technologies Launches Content Protection Licensing Program

LOS ANGELES, Calif. June --, 2007 -- BD+ Technologies, LLC, the licensor of BD+, the exclusive added layer of content protection for movies and other premium entertainment released on the Blu-ray Disc standard, announced today the completion of its licensing program.

The program includes the BD+ Specifications and Agreement for BD+ Adopters (Player/Chip Manufacturers), as well as BD+ Content Participants and authorized BD+ code developers.

Sample copies of all new license documents, as well as other related information, are available at www.bdplusllc.com.

BD+ is a Virtual Machine-based content protection technology created exclusively for the Blu-ray Disc format. The technology features have already been implemented into all Blu-ray Disc players in the marketplace, however updated technical specifications are now available.

“Fox has vigorously fought against piracy for years and the adoption of BD+ as part of the Blu-ray Disc specification, and an enhancement over and above AACS, was a key factor in our decision to publish on the format,” noted Mike Dunn, President Worldwide, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. “This added layer of content protection gives Blu-ray yet another distinct competitive advantage."

Bob Chapek, President, Buena Vista Worldwide Home Entertainment, commented, “We are excited that BD+ has now come to fruition. In this day and age, no content provider can risk not fully protecting their assets."

"The ability to protect IP is the most important issue facing our industry and the level of copyright protection Blu-ray offers is one of the major reasons we supported BD from the onset," said Steve Beeks, COO and President, Lionsgate. "Adding this extra layer of protection has made us even more confident that we made the right choice for the studio and the public interest."

On behalf of MGM Home Entertainment, General Manager, Eric Doctorow noted, “This is great news for the market. Content providers can release more product knowing there is stronger copy protection - and for consumers that translates into a greater choice of films."

"BD+ serves as an additional safeguard to protect next generation HD content from piracy," said David Bishop, President of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. "Sony Pictures believes that it will become a valuable option for Blu-ray Disc content providers going forward."

About BD+ Technologies, LLC:

BD+ Technologies, LLC is a joint venture between affiliates of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., which is best known by its Panasonic brand, Sony Corporation and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation that was formed in 2006 for the purpose of licensing the specification for BD+ content protection technology. The BD+ technology provides an additional layer of content protection for High-Definition movies and other high-value content released on Blu-ray Discs. Visit www.bdplusllc.com for further information.


So does this mean that Fox and MGM will soon begin announcing new Blu-ray releases? We expect so.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/28/07 - 1 PM PDT)

It's a slow news day DVD-wise, but Warner has set Unaccompanied Minors for release on 8/7 (SRP $28.98). Extras will include additional scenes, Charlie's Dance Reel, audio commentary the filmmakers, the Guards in the Hall featurette and an Easter egg.

Meanwhile, Palm Pictures has set Marcelo Piñeyro's The Method for release on 8/14 (SRP $24.99).

On the high-def front however, we've got lots of news today. Like it or not, here goes...

First, Dimension has just announced that they'll be releasing Badder Santa: The Unrated Version and Scary Movie on Blu-ray Disc format on 10/23. Each of these discs will include much if not all of the original DVD extras, and will include AVC encoded 1080p video. SRP will be $29.99 each.

Also newly announced for Blu-ray from Disney is Remember the Titans, due on 9/4 (SRP $29.99). No word yet on extras, but it's likely all the DVD features will be there, and again encoding is AVC.

Speaking of Blu-ray, our friend Simon at the U.K.'s Den of Geek! e-mailed to say that Kill Bill, Kill Bill, Vol. 2 and Pulp Fiction are all apparently set for September release in the U.K. on the format. Starship Troopers is set for August, and The Rock, Con Air and Air Force One are all due there next week. It seems likely that all these titles are in the offing for release here in the States before the end of this year as well. We'll post details as they come in.

Also today, Adobe has just chosen Blu-ray as their format choice for delivery of HD video in the forthcoming Adobe Encore CS3, which debuts in July. Click here to read more from EMediaLive.com.

And it appears that the Blu-ray camp is launching a new promotion to give away 5 free titles with the purchase of select BD players. Video Business has more on that today.

On the format "neutral" front, Warner has revealed that its TotalHD hybrid/combo format, containing both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD, has been delayed until early 2008. You can read more here at Video Business and here at Home Media.

So what's the HD-DVD camp excited about today? Cheap Chinese players, of course! Home Media has just posted a story on the DVD Forum being a step closer to approving cheap Chinese HD-DVD players. In the piece, Universal's Ken Graffeo is quoted as saying that "Hardware drives software." With all respect to Graffeo (who we've dealt with before and he's a good guy), we'll have agree to disagree with that strange cart-before-horse position - maybe the first time we've ever heard such a statement from a Hollywood studio exec. Yes, you have to have players out there to sell discs, but people don't buy players just to buy hardware... they buy them to play SOFTWARE. What good is an HD player, no matter how cheap, if it can't play HD software from a majority of the Hollywood studios? The HD-DVD strategy seems to be to sell as many cheap players as possible in the hopes that enough will end up in circulation to coerce the Blu-ray Disc exclusive studios to go format neutral. But again we'll ask, what's more likely to happen first: Universal goes format neutral... or Disney, Fox, MGM, Sony and Lionsgate go format neutral? Logic would seem to dictate that the former is the more likely. But then there's not a lot of common sense at play in this format war right now.

By the way, this silliness about how the introduction of cheap Chinese players is what drove the success of DVD, is absolute revisionist nonsense. (The Home Media story includes this note referring to Graffeo: "He notes it was cheap Chinese DVD players retailing for less than $100 that really spurred the DVD to mass adoption, and he's hoping the same thing will happen with HD DVD.") That's COMPLETELY absurd. DVD was a massive commercial, mass-market success LONG before cheap Chinese players arrived in stores. In fact, many in the hardware industry decry the arrival of cheap Chinese players as the very thing that killed profit margins for DVD hardware. Good grief!

Moving on, remember how we said the other day that you'd probably start seeing mainstream media reports calling this format war in favor of Blu-ray in the wake of the Blockbuster announcement? Well, here's two more... Peter Ha at Crunch Gear and Steve Tilley's Load This blog at Canoe.ca. (The latter appears to be suffering from slash-doting, but it'll be available again soon enough I'm sure.)

One wonders how long the HD-DVD camp will continue to slash prices and push their format before realizing that continuing to fuel the format war risks cannibalizing the HD packaged media market entirely.

Finally today, speaking of packaged media (vs. downloading), for those of you interested in checking out my appearance on The Loop segment of G4's Attack of the Show from yesterday, click here (or watch below). It's always fun hanging out with Kevin and the crew, and it was a blast chatting iPhones with Jerry Block from IGN too. Anyway, enjoy...



By the way, when I talked on the show about the security problem of digital storage of movie and music files, there's a good article from a couple years ago at Technology Review that touches upon the problem. Not only can hard drives crash and the data become corrupt, the file formats themselves can become obsolete and unreadable over time. It's interesting reading and it touches upon what I think could be a major problem as we move deeper into the digital realm.

Stay tuned!


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