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(Archived Posts 8/20/07 - 8/9/07)
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UPDATE - 8/20/07 - 4:15 PM PDT)
Boy... crazy day today, huh? As you may have noticed, the site's
been up and down today because of all the traffic, but it should
level out again soon. Nothing like a format war to liven things up
"A house divided against itself cannot stand," goes the
quote. Abraham Lincoln, of course, was talking about the fledgling
United States back in 1858, but his words apply surprisingly well
today, when reflecting upon the current state of the high-definition
On that note, we've got tons of follow-up e-mails and phone calls
out this afternoon to the all various studios and industry observers
associated with said format war. And I'll tell you, based on some of
the conversations we've had today (both on and off-the-record) with
insiders in both camps and in between, when it comes to this
morning's high-def news, there's a LOT more going on
behind-the-scenes than meets the eye. You have NO idea. If you think
the situation is as cut and dried as the press releases (or Harry's
post over at AICN, not to mention the 'talk backs'
that follow it) would make it seem, you're kidding yourself.
Hollywood's on fire right now - at least the studio home video
portion of it. And the retailers... and the manufacturers...
Like it or not, things are going to get VERY interesting in the
next few days and in the weeks ahead. You're going to see a lot of
reports on all this in the media, like
one at the Wall Street Journal, in which DreamWorks
chief Jeffrey Katzenberg basically acknowledges that his company
received financial incentives to go HD-DVD exclusive - incentives
which included "both cash payments and
soft incentives such as marketing promotions" according
to the story.
By the way, a quick side comment here. A number of HD-DVD fans have
e-mailed us to cry fowl over our issue with Microsoft offering
financial incentives to studios to go HD-DVD only, when (they say)
Sony must surely be doing the same thing on the Blu-ray Disc side.
Here's the difference, and it's why we continue to flag it: Sony
pumping money to various studios and parties to promote Blu-ray Disc
make logical sense to us. Toshiba doing the same thing to promote
HD-DVD, that makes logical sense too. Sony was involved in creating
Blu-ray and has a financial stake in it. Likewise, Toshiba created
HD-DVD and has a financial stake there. Where does Microsoft's
interests lie? Microsoft did not create HD-DVD. Until not so very
long ago (prior to these formats coming to market), as they
themselves acknowledge, they actually supported both formats. So why
are they putting so much money into HD-DVD now? Not only are they
putting money into HD-DVD, they're basically the only party that's
keeping the format alive. Left to their own financial means, we find
it hard to believe that Toshiba would be able to keep pricing its
hardware so low - especially given the fact that they've had to
adjust their sales projections for the format downward in recent
months. And without the "financial incentives" offered by
Microsoft, would ANY of the HD-DVD exclusive studios still be HD-DVD
exclusive? We doubt it. So what does Microsoft have to gain from all
this? That's the question that keeps sticking in our minds. By
making these deals with the studios, aren't they getting exclusive
access to new high-def transfers that they'll be able to turn around
and offer on Xbox Live - transfers that they themselves are encoding
in VC-1 for the studios at a discounted rate or even for free? And
as we've said many times now, doesn't Microsoft's download service
stand to gain if this format war continues long enough to discourage
most consumers from adopting high-def discs at all? That's the
difference between Sony and Microsoft - Sony is heavily supporting
their own format for obvious reasons. Microsoft is heavily
supporting someone else's format for their own reasons, some of
which are obvious (VC-1, HDi) and some not so much.
Anyway, there are going to be lots of quotes from studio suits
about all this high-def news in the next few days and weeks. Some of
it will true and some will be bullshit, and much of it will be a
combination both. Yeah, I know... a lot of you guys are as sick of
reading about this format war as we are of writing about it. But you
can bet there will be reaction to (and even fallout from) today's
announcements, and lots more testy exchanges in the media between
the two camps, and we're right in the thick of it. So watch this
In the meantime, we'll be back with Barrie's latest Classic
Coming Attractions column in time for your morning
coffee. So stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE -
8/20/07 - 1:45 PM PDT)
Well... we told you this was coming. No doubt "encouraged"
by today's HD-DVD news, Fox and MGM have just officially announced
their return to the Blu-ray game with 29 exclusive titles, including
MAJOR catalog films, all of which are reportedly coming before the
end of 2007. These include Live Free of
Die Hard, Fantastic Four: Rise
of the Silver Surfer, Independence
Day, Master and Commander: The
Far Side of the World, The Day
After Tomorrow and the TV show Prison
Break. Here's the press release:
FOX AND MGM UNVEIL BLU-RAY EXCLUSIVE
WORLDWIDE RELEASES FOR 2007
29 Titles To Debut Packed With Soon-to-Be-Announced BD Industry Firsts
- PLUS Foxs First TV Title PRISON BREAK
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER And LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
and Other Titles To Debut Day-and-Date on BD/DVD
-- Blu-ray Out-Performing HD DVD 2-to-1 At Retail in 2007 --
LOS ANGELES August 20, 2007 -- Twentieth Century Fox Home
Entertainment (TCFHE) today unveiled an aggressive global Blu-ray
Disc release strategy including 29 new release and must-have
catalog titles that runs through the end of the 2007 calendar year.
Among the many highlights of the impressive worldwide slate are six
day & date BD/DVD new theatrical releases from Fox including the
$241 million box-office family favorite FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE
SILVER SURFER and the $335 million box-office action powerhouse LIVE
FREE OR DIE HARD, four day & date BD/DVD (U.S. only) new
theatrical releases from MGM, 19 must-have on BD films
from the two studios libraries, Foxs first-ever TV
release on BD PRISON BREAK -- and Foxs intention to
release at least one state-of-the-art title per month featuring
numerous BD firsts.
The only high-definition packaged media universally supported by
the film, music, gaming and computer industries, BD is the #1
selling high-definition packaged media. In fact, on a worldwide
basis, BD is averaging nearly 70% market-share per week of all high
definition titles sold this year and, in the U.S., it is
out-performing HD DVD by a margin of 115%.
Given that Blu-ray has consistently outsold HD DVD all year,
and this is the case for any titles released by any studio in both
formats, we believe that the time is right for us to accelerate our
activities and help convert the nearly 60 million high definition
households worldwide into Blu-ray households, noted Mike Dunn,
President Worldwide, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. By
the end of this calendar year there will be expansive availability
of technically vibrant releases featuring never-before-seen,
advanced BD-J interactivity as well as a broad offering of playback
devices at attractive prices that will prove to any doubting
consumers once and for all that Blu-ray is the only way.
And as Blu-ray continues to grows stronger, it has become
survival of the fittest which is most apparent in the retail
landscape where our eager and growing global Blu-ray consumer base
has caused a shift that is forcing the allocation of more space to
the format that is selling the best. And, in many recent instances
of note, top retailers in North America are choosing to promote the
Blu-ray format exclusively in their stores, continued Dunn.
Among the BD industry firsts from the Studios
upcoming global release slate are picture in picture capability,
enhanced viewing and surround sound modes with the ability to mix
and match picture and sound, direct access to in-movie features
through one of the four colored buttons on the BD remote and the
most technically vibrant BD-Java interactive multi-player challenge
and trivia games to date. The Studios slate also takes full
advantage of BD-Live functionality this fourth quarter.
Internet-connected consumers will enjoy unique, title specific web-enabled
interactive features and games and web-exclusive
downloadable content with the ability to connect and interact with
other broadband BD users worldwide.
Cementing its leadership position within the industry - previous BD
releases NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM and X-MEN THE LAST STAND rank in the
Top 20 best-sellers - the vast majority of the Studios
upcoming global slate will be presented on 50 GB dual-layer discs
with advanced BD-J interactivity and feature numerous Blu-ray
exclusive high-definition bonus materials that further realizes BDs
incredible potential. Consumers will enjoy the superior video and
audio elements of AVC encoding and Lossless HD audio on many of the
coming titles as well as enhanced and integrated menus, personal
scene selections, search indexing, trivia and other title specific
games and high-definition bonus materials.
Upcoming BD-J features exclusive to priority catalogue titles from
Fox and MGM include an "Alien Scavenger Hunt"
(INDEPENDENCE DAY) that challenges players to earn points by
identifying the correct number of aliens in select scenes to unlock
additional bonus features; a Global Warming Trivia Track
(THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW) where users must correctly answer questions
about global warming to keep the Earths temperature from
rising and being destroyed; and a historical and geographical pop-up
map (MASTER & COMMANDER) that tracks the location of Captain "Lucky"
Jack Aubrey and his enemies.
Listed below are the upcoming Blu-ray Disc releases from Fox and
MGM excluding new theatrical day & date BD/DVD releases. EXACT
TITLE CONFIGURATIONS TO FOLLOW IN THE COMING WEEKS.
Master and Commander - 10/2
(U.S. release) - October (International)
The Day After Tomorrow - 10/2
(U.S. release) - November (International)
From Hell - 10/9 (U.S.
release) - October (International)
The Fly (1986) - 10/9 (U.S.
release) - Q1 2008 (International)
Edward Scissorhands - 10/9
(U.S. release) - November (International)
28 Days Later - 10/9 (U.S.
release) - North America Only
RoboCop (MGM) - 10/9 (U.S.
release) - December (International)
Amityville Horror (1979 - MGM)
- 10/2 (U.S. release) - North America Only
Battle of Britain (MGM) - 11/6
(U.S. release) - Q1 2008 (International)
A Bridge Too Far (MGM) - 11/6
(U.S. release) - Q1 2008 (International)
I, Robot - 11/13 (U.S.
release) - Q1 2008 (International)
Die Hard - November (U.S.
release) - November (International)
Die Hard 2: Die Harder -
November (U.S. release) - November (International)
Die Hard with a Vengeance -
November (U.S. release) - November (International)
Red Dawn (MGM) - November
(U.S. release) - Q1 2008 (International)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith - 12/4
(U.S. release) - December (International)
Independence Day - 12/4 (U.S.
release) - December (International)
Cast Away - 12/4 (U.S.
release) - North America Only
Ronin (MGM) - 12/4 (U.S.
release) - December (International)
Holey moley... is this format war heating up or what!? By the way,
be sure to read
editorial we just posted on all this, and what the likely
outcome of this format may be if things continue as they are now.
(LATE UPDATE -
8/20/07 - 1:30 PM PDT)
Predictably, home theater discussion forums around the Net are
ablaze today with anger, glee, frustration and confusion in light of
the high-def news this morning. You'll probably see some of that
spill over into mainstream media reports in the days ahead. Also
predictably, we've gotten a flurry of e-mails today in response to
the news about Paramount and DreamWorks going HD-DVD exclusive. As
in thousands of them. They fall into four basic categories: 1)
Industry insiders and observers who can't seem to figure out what
the studios are smoking by continuing to fuel this format war, 2)
Blu-ray Disc supporters who are notably pissed about this news, 3)
HD-DVD supporters whose communications can be best summed up with
the words "Nanner nanner nanner!", and 4) People who
haven't made a choice yet, who have been considering getting into
high-def but who are now more confused than ever.
The vast majority of the e-mails fall into categories 1, 2 and 4,
not surprisingly. As for the guys in camp 3, while a few of them
have been civil this morning, most of them still refuse to believe
that we're not "getting paid by Sony to shill for Blu-ray!"
We're not, as we've said before, and anyone who tells you otherwise
is lying. But that doesn't seem to convince them otherwise. By the
way, for those few who keep e-mailing to accuse us of biased
reporting, we counter with this: The
Digital Bits is ENTIRELY an editorial website. Every
review, every column including THIS one, is our opinion. We report
the DVD and high-def news, offer all the key details, and then we
give our opinion on them. That's what we've done for TEN YEARS now.
Seriously, my daily column - the one you're reading right now - is
called MY TWO CENTS. Has been
since 1997. How hard is that to understand? When we aggressively
supported DVD over Circuit City's pay-per-view Divx format back in
1998, it was because in our opinion that format war was bad and DVD
was the better choice for the majority of consumers. When we fought
to lobby all the studios to support DVD's anamorphic widescreen
capabilities, it was because because we knew that it would benefit
both consumers and the video quality of DVDs in the long term (and
it has). And now, we've picked Blu-ray over HD-DVD because again, we
believe this format war is bad and that Blu-ray is the better choice
for a majority of consumers. But that doesn't sit well for those who
prefer HD-DVD, so NOW they're calling us biased. Hey pot? This is
the kettle. You're black.
All well. What can you do except continue to say what you believe?
There's never a dull moment around here, I'll tell you that much.
You know, here at The Bits,
we've been operating over the last couple of years with one guiding
principal, and that is this: We believe
this format war is a TERRIBLE thing for consumers and for this
industry. And we believe that if it continues much longer, consumers
will turn away from high-def discs in droves. Something
similar has happened before, and recently too, in the form of the
high-definition audio format war between DVD-Audio and SACD. The
comparison is a fair one, because like high-resolution audio discs,
which faced stiff competition from the traditional CD and emerging
downloading services, high-definition video discs must cope with the
dominance of existing DVD and also new video downloading services
like iTunes and Xbox Live. Like Blu-ray and HD-DVD, both DVD-Audio
and SACD were great formats, which delivered basically the same
thing: a much-higher quality A/V experience for enthusiasts. But
because they basically only appealed to enthusiasts... and because
there were two formats to choose from for at least three years...
neither format gained much traction with average consumers, who
preferred the lower price and convenience of downloads to higher
priced discs, or who were simply happy enough with the existing CD.
Both formats have since gone silently into that good night. Believe
us when we say this if nothing else: The
same fate awaits both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc if this format war
goes on for another year or more.
We chose Blu-ray Disc recently because we believed, and we continue
to believe, that of the two formats, Blu-ray Disc was the only one
that really stood any chance of outright winning this format war.
And that's really the only reason for our decision. If the shoes
were reversed, and HD-DVD had the same advantages of support Blu-ray
had, we've be arguing in favor of HD-DVD. But all of our years of
experience covering this business tell us that offering a single
format is the ONLY way high-def discs will ever stand a chance of
competing with DVD in the minds and hearts of the vast majority of
consumers. The ONLY way.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has told me point blank that they
believe both Blu-ray and HD-DVD can live together happily. "Look
at the videogame industry," I've been told by Microsoft reps, "You've
got three platforms all of which do just fine. Why can't Blu-ray and
HD-DVD coexist? Combo players are the answer!" We get a number
of high-end home theater enthusiasts who say the same thing: "All
the studios should just go format neutral, and people should all buy
combo players! That's the answer!"
The problem with this thinking is that the home video industry
isn't like the videogame industry. For all the money the videogame
industry makes, and it makes a lot, only a small percentage of
people out there are gamers. Only a VERY small percentage of all
consumers are interested in (and go to the effort of) buying
multiple game platforms and lots of games titles on each platform.
However, when it comes to the home video industry, people DO NOT
WANT MULTIPLE PLATFORMS. They just don't. People want to just be
able buy a movie on disc, bring it home and know that it's going to
work on their player. That's what DVD game them. They don't want to
have to choose between multiple formats, especially when making that
choice involves significantly more money and spending time that they
don't have to research their decision. People don't want to risk
money on maybe buying the wrong format. They want a single obvious
choice, that offers great quality, value and ease of use. And with
so many titles being released, retailers don't want to have to stock
the same title in multiple formats either. That's why some retailers
have begun to favor Blu-ray in recent weeks. They want to offer a
single choice for their customers, because that's what their
So what Paramount and DreamWorks have just done, with Microsoft's
financial urging, is to confuse consumers and retailers even more
than they already are. The reality is, whether you like what they've
done or not, you can't really blame Microsoft. All's fair in love
and war... especially in a format war. Just like Sony, they want to
keep their format going. But with Blu-ray Disc software since the
start of the year outselling HD-DVD by a 2 or 3 to 1 margin, and
with Blu-ray hardware sales pulling even with much cheaper HD-DVD
hardware in recent weeks, the outcome of this thing was just
starting to become clear to a lot of people. And aside from
countering some of that momentum for Blu-ray, what this news today
does is make the situation a lot more cloudy for consumers. All so
that Paramount and DreamWorks can bank a few extras millions in the
short term. But if this situation continues much longer, ALL of the
studios will lose a lot more than that in the long term. High-def
discs will do well within a tiny niche market of enthusiasts who can
afford to buy two different pieces of hardware or combo players, but
everyone else will shrug and stop caring. And that will be a
terrible shame, because if that's the outcome, even the enthusiasts
will ultimately lose.
Who really wins in that situation? Certainly not consumers or
retailers. Not the Hollywood studios. But anyone who's trying to
sell their movie download service will be smiling all the way to the
bank, you can bet on that.
You know what really disturbs us? The possibility of the situation
getting even more muddy than it already is now. Here's how it could
happen: Spurred by this Paramount and DreamWorks news, Fox and MGM
will almost certainly get back into the Blu-ray Disc business fast
and in a big way. So the Blu-ray camp will come back with all guns
blazing. And then there's this: I'd be shocked if Microsoft wasn't
trying to use their money and influence (not to mention the momentum
gained by the Paramount and DreamWorks move) to try and convince
Warner (along with New Line and HBO) to go HD-DVD exclusive as well.
So it's not inconceivable that we could find ourselves in a position
in which Disney, MGM, Fox, Sony and Lionsgate are in one camp, and
Universal, Paramount, DreamWorks and Warner (plus maybe New Line)
are in the other. You know what that would mean? Quagmire. And
disaster for the home video industry... and high-def movie fans
You think it can't happen? You think the industry can't possibly be
THAT shortsighted? Uh-huh. Would anyone other than Microsoft care to
wager on that?
(EARLY UPDATE - 8/20/07
- 11 AM PDT)
Well... the high-definition format war just got more confusing for
consumers, and you can thank the hubris of the folks at Microsoft
for it. Their HD-DVD format (because I'm sorry, can anyone really
say it still belongs to Toshiba at this point?) badly needed a shot
in the arm going into the holiday season, and just got it thanks to
suitcases full of cash from the Microsoft camp. You ready for this?
Here it is:
Microsoft has paid DreamWorks and Paramount so much money that
they've decided to join Universal in the HD-DVD exclusive camp. No
None of the participants in this deal are willing to openly
disclose just how MUCH money was exchanged, but
L.A. Weekly is reporting (based in part on a
confidential report from media analysis firm Pali Research) that it
was in the neighborhood of $50 million in "promotional
considerations" for Paramount and $100 million for DreamWorks.
I'm sure they're also getting lots of free or discounted VC-1
compression and HDi authoring services, along with prime placement
on Xbox Live too. Is anyone else just disgusted by Microsoft's
naked, shameless financial influence in this thing? That Hollywood
is a greedy place should be obvious to all by now, if it wasn't
already. The HD-DVD format can't win any other way than for
Microsoft to PAY studios off to stay exclusive. And then they have
the balls to claim the Blu-ray Disc camp is involved in antitrust
I'll tell you, this doesn't change our opinion of the eventual
outcome of the format war too much. HD-DVD is never going to win
this thing. The best it can hope for at this rate, even with the
paid involvment of Paramount and DreamWorks, is to stay in the game.
But let's face it... if money has to be involved for HD-DVD to stay
in the game, that says a lot right there. And while Paramount and
DreamWorks will no doubt earn lots of scorn from the rest of the
industry, and they'll each make a couple extra movies with
Microsoft's money while their stockholders giggle with glee,
eventually business realities will dictate that they'll change their
tune again. Unless Microsoft pays them more money still. One wonders
if Universal just got another paycheck too.
By the way, if anyone doubts that Microsoft's real reason for
involving itself in all this is to slow the adoption of
next-generation discs by confusing consumers with a continuing
format war so their own Xbox Live service can continue to grow and
dominate the movie and TV downloading market, you'd better think
twice. Because you can bet that while they'll continue to play at
supporting HD-DVD, lots of those brand, spanking new high-def
transfers will end up on Xbox Live too and for a lot cheaper than
Anyway, here's the official press release from Paramount and
DreamWorks. And I'd like to call your attention to the final
sentence in this press release, because I think it tells you
EVERYTHING you need to know about this announcement:
Paramount and DreamWorks Animation Each
Declare Exclusive Support for HD DVD
Movies Distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment Including
Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Animation SKG, DreamWorks Pictures,
Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films to be Released
Exclusively in HD DVD Exclusive Program To Begin with Release of "Blades
of Glory," Followed by "Transformers" and "Shrek
the Third," Films Representing More Than $1.5 Billion in
Combined Worldwide Box Office
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Paramount Pictures,
a unit of Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B) and DreamWorks Animation
SKG (NYSE: DWA), each announced today that they will exclusively
support the next-generation HD DVD format on a worldwide basis. The
exclusive HD DVD commitment will include all movies distributed by
Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Vantage,
Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films, as well as movies from DreamWorks
Animation, which are distributed exclusively by Paramount Home
The companies each said that the decision to distribute exclusively
in the HD DVD format resulted from an extensive evaluation of
current market offerings, which confirmed the clear benefits of HD
DVD, particularly its market-ready technology and lower
manufacturing costs Paramount Home Entertainment will launch its
exclusive HD DVD program with the release of the blockbuster comedy
hit "Blades of Glory" on August 28th and follow with two
of the biggest grossing movies of the year "Transformers"
and "Shrek the Third". These three titles alone represent
more than $1.5 billion in box office ticket sales worldwide.
"The combination of Paramount and DreamWorks Animation brings
a critical mass of current box office hits to consumers with a
line-up of live action and animated films that are perfect for HD
DVD," stated Brad Grey, Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures,
which is currently the leading studio in domestic box office. "Part
of our vision is to aggressively extend our movies beyond the
theater, and deliver the quality and features that appeal to our
audience. I believe HD DVD is not only the affordable high quality
choice for consumers, but also the smart choice for Paramount."
"We decided to release "Shrek the Third" and other
DreamWorks Animation titles exclusively on HD DVD because we believe
it is the best format to bring high quality home entertainment to a
key segment of our audience -- families," stated DreamWorks
Animation CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg. "We believe the combination
of this year's low-priced HD DVD players and the commitment to
release a significant number of hit titles in the fall makes HD DVD
the best way to view movies at home."
With the rapid increase of HD TV screens in households, and
audiences wanting to enjoy the total entertainment experience, HD
DVD has emerged as the most affordable way for consumers to watch
their movies in high definition. In addition to pristine quality, HD
DVD also offers consumers the chance to personalize the
movie-watching experience, to interact with their movies and even to
connect with a community of other fans.
Paramount Home Entertainment will issue new releases day and date
as well as catalog titles exclusively on HD DVD. Today's
announcement does not include films directed by Steven Spielberg as
his films are not exclusive to either format.
How do you like THEM apples? Not exclusive to either format?
Spielberg's decided his first film on high-def disc is coming out on
Blu-ray Disc only. So what do Paramount and DreamWorks do? They bury
that little factoid at the tail end of their press release. Nice.
Okay, Spielberg hasn't made any kind of public statements to that
effect that he supports only Blu-ray. But why then isn't Universal
able to release any of his films on HD-DVD? Why then does this deal
with Paramount and DreamWorks NOT include Spielberg titles? Because
Spielberg wouldn't allow it is the only thing that makes any sense.
I'll tell you what... I'm betting Fox and MGM start making Blu-ray
Disc exclusive announcements and soon. You just watch. The reaction
will be swift...
(LATE UPDATE -
8/17/07 - 1:45 PM PDT)
We've got a little bit more news today and some follow-ups...
First, Universal has announced the DVD release of the 2-hour The
Munsters' Scary Little Christmas movie on 11/6.
Also, we have more details on Warner's Poltergeist:
25th Anniversary Edition. It's a single disc (SRP $19.97)
with anamorphic widescreen video and audio in Dolby Digital 1.0
mono, 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround. Extras will include the They
Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeist Revealed
documentary in 2 parts (Science of the
Spirits and Communing with the
Dead) as well as the theatrical trailer. That's a shame -
we'd have expected a lot more from this disc in terms of special
features. And again, there is no high-def version currently planned.
There have been reports around the Net in the last few days that
Disney's The Jungle Book was
being released on Blu-ray Disc later this year, day and date with
the DVD. This is NOT the case, and I've confirmed that with senior
BVHE personnel. As was announced early this
morning, Sleeping Beauty
will be the first Platinum animated title on Blu-ray in 2008. Just
Those of you waiting for Sony's The
Company to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 10/23 should
know that this is the TNT miniseries (based on the novel by Robert
Littell) produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, and starring Michael
Keaton, Chris O'Donnell and Alfred Molina... not the dancing film.
We're just saying. By the way, we hear the high-def cinematography
on this thing is pretty spectacular (the miniseries was shot in HD).
Publisher T.K. Arnold has a great editorial column coming in the
new issue of Home Media
magazine. It's not up yet on their website, but you can find it on
page 2 of
digital version (which is online now). The title: Is
Microsoft Fueling the Format War? It's recommended
been saying the same thing for months now.
Finally, there's a major milestone passing today and it seems to be
flying almost completely under the radar. But it changed all our
lives and it's worth remembering. 25 years ago today, on August
17th, 1982, the very first Compact Discs rolled off a production
line in Germany. The CD format was jointly developed by Royal
Philips Electronics and Sony. And what did those first discs
contain? For the record, Richard Strauss' Alpine
Symphony. The discs would be primitive sounding by
today's standards, but they changed everything. And the vast
majority of music fans still get their music on CD even now, all
these years later in 2007. Not too bad for a little 5" disc.
You can read more on this
at Live Science. I can vividly remember buying my
first CDs back in the day... Dire
Straits: Brothers in Arms and The
Police: Greatest Hits. Nice.
Now I'm off to get this new computer up to speed. For the record,
I've chosen an HP Pavilion Media Center m8150n... complete with
Intel Core 2 Quad (Q6600) processor, 3GB of PC2-5300 DDR2 SD RAM
memory, TONS of hard drive space and more. And the first order of
business is to yank the HD-DVD drive out of this thing and replace
it either with an LG combo format drive, or just drop in a Blu-ray
drive. Well, okay... that's the SECOND order of business after
getting it up and running so I can start getting more work done with
We'll leave you today with new cover art. Here's your first look at
the just-approved art for Disney's Pirates
of the Caribbean: At World's End on Blu-ray (12/4), along
with Warner's Poltergeist: 25th
Anniversary Edition DVD and revised art for Sony's Close
Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition
on Blu-ray (11/13)...
And here's a better look at that Pirates
Don't forget to check out Disney's Blu-ray mall tour this weekend
at the Westfield Topanga if you're in the area. Tell 'em The
Bits sent you!
Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday. Stay
(EARLY UPDATE -
8/17/07 - 12:01 AM PDT)
If you're a fan of Disney films, and you're considering upgrading
to Blu-ray Disc, here's some news that's going to make it easier for
you to pull the trigger. On the eve of the launch of their
nationwide Blu-ray mall tour (which kicks off later today at the
Westfield Topanga shopping center in Canoga Park, CA), Buena Vista
has just announced that they're planning to release Sleeping
Beauty, Finding Nemo,
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The
Witch and The Wardrobe and National
Treasure on Blu-ray in 2008. The
Chronicles of Narnia will arrive first in the spring,
followed by National Treasure
next summer. Disney and Pixar's Finding
Nemo and the Platinum animated Sleeping
Beauty will debut in the fall. Both Narnia
and Nemo will offer full
motion picture-in-picture bonus features, and National
Treasure will be the studio's first BD-Live title. Sleeping
Beauty will reportedly include a virtual castle and
multi-player activities, also via BD-Live. Here's the official press
"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WALT DISNEY STUDIOS HOME ENTERTAINMENT
ANNOUNCES THE DISNEY BLU-RAY TITLE WAVE COMING 2008
Burbank, CA, August 17, 2007 - Walt Disney Studios Home
Entertainment (WDSHE) announced today more innovations in the
Blu-ray format with the Studio's first ever Platinum Blu-ray
release, the Studio's first BD-Live title, and full motion
picture-in-picture Blu-ray bonus features.
The Studio announced the first animated Platinum coming to Blu-ray
will be the timeless treasure Sleeping Beauty. Releasing
Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray marks a milestone for the format
as these titles are not released until a format has been proven both
technologically and in terms of consumer acceptance - and Disney's
animated releases in the past have been a major catalysis for any
format's growth. Pinocchio's release on VHS and Snow
White's release on DVD marked major growth milestones for both
of those formats. The Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray Disc release
will also include a virtual castle and multi-player activities -
both utilizing the BD-Live technology.
The Platinum titles are the crown jewels of the Disney
Studios and we do not take releasing them lightly on any format. The
proven Blu-ray technology has allowed us to take our films to new
heights, fully utilizing the larger capacity and interactive
capabilities for an incredible all-new consumer experience,
commented Bob Chapek, President of Walt Disney Studios Home
In addition, WDSHE announced the special edition release of the
action-adventure blockbuster National Treasure, which will
become the Studio's first BD-Live Blu-ray Disc title. In addition,
the Studio will bring two of its treasured family classics to
Blu-ray Disc, Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo and The
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, both
of which will feature full motion picture-in-picture bonus features.
The strides that we've made with this format are just the tip
of the iceberg and we are confident that consumers will be astounded
by the level of entertainment that can only be achieved by using the
maximum capacity of the Blu-ray Disc format. All of these wonderful
titles will appeal to the ever growing Blu-ray market and we are
extremely proud to offer these in the most pristine and robust
presentations ever for Disney fans around the globe, continued
This exciting slate of Blu-ray Disc releases will begin with The
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in
spring 2008, followed by National Treasure in summer of 2008
and culminating with Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo and Sleeping
Beauty in fall 2008."
From what we've learned, this is just the start of a terrific slate
of Blu-ray titles that Buena Vista has planned for release next
year. We'll have more news on all this in the weeks ahead.
There's one other bit of Blu-ray news this morning as well: Warner
has set the Blu-ray version of Robert Zemeckis' The
Polar Express for release on 10/30. The title is already
available on HD-DVD.
Back later this morning. Stay tuned!
Here's a couple of new announcements, and a little bit of other
news as well...
Warner has announced a new Poltergeist:
25th Anniversary Edition DVD for release on 10/9 (SRP
$19.97), which features a remastered anamorphic widescreen transfer,
along with the They Are Here: The Real
World of Poltergeists Revealed documentary.
Unfortunately, according to Warner, no high-def versions are
Warner has also launched its official
Runner: The Final Cut website. You can preview the Dangerous
Days trailer, see all the various cover art and disc
specs, download wallpapers and AIM icons, and more. Additional
content and news will be added to the site as we approach the film's
10/5 theatrical release and the 12/18 DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD
release, so keep checking back. "A new life awaits you in the
Also today, 20th Century Fox has announced the DVD release of How
I Met Your Mother: Season Two on 10/2. Additional details
And for those of you who have been thinking about jumping on the
Blu-ray bandwagon, but haven't had the chance to see the format up
close yet, Disney's Magical Blu-ray Tour of shopping malls around
the country kicks off this weekend here in the L.A. area. The first
stop will begin tomorrow (8/17) at the Westfield Topanga shopping
center in Canoga Park, CA and will run through Sunday. You'll find
an information area, plasma displays with interactive demo stations
and even a mini theater environment, so you can interact with the
players and discs and see what Blu-ray has to offer firsthand.
Disney staffers will also be on hand to answer all your questions.
And as the tour continues, we're told that Disney will begin
previewing the forthcoming Cars,
Pirates 3 and Meet
the Robinsons Blu-ray releases. Here's a look at a couple
views of the booth you'll see if you drop by...
As we did with Toshiba's HD-DVD launch tour last year, we'll keep
you updated each week as to where this Blu-ray tour, which runs
through the end of December, is headed next. For the record, here's
the complete list of stops and dates: 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). You can read more on all this
at USA Today.
Hey folks! So, I'm sitting here at my computer yesterday, working
to finish formatting the EMA Day Three report and Barrie's new
column... when suddenly it occurs to me that I haven't upgraded my
computer in about five years. I don't know why I thought about that,
but the thought just popped into my head. Now, I'm a SERIOUS
computer user. My PC is typically on for about 14-18 hours a day,
and more often than not, I'm sitting there in front of it that whole
time. So anyway, thinking that it had been a while since the last
upgrade was apparently some kind of jinx, because a few hours later,
I heard a loud snapping sound from the back of the case, followed
shortly thereafter by the pungent scent of ozone. It seems my PC's
power supply is dying. Everything still works (and I back-up all my
files pretty well), but with the writing on the wall, I found myself
over at MicroCenter last night looking at new PCs. Sorry, Mac
users... I just can't make myself go that route yet. Someday it will
happen, but for now I'm still more John Hodgman than Justin Long. I
like to tinker under the hood, and I like games, and both are a lot
more fun for me on a PC. Anyhow, it seems like computer troubles are
going around these last couple of days. I spoke with our friend Ron
Epstein over at The
Home Theater Forum this morning, and he reported to me
that they had a major server crash a couple days ago that they're
working to recover from. What can you do? So the long and the short
of it is that we really appreciate your patience while we work to
get back up to 100%. And the moment I am, EMA Day 3 and Barrie's
column will be the first things posted.
In the meantime, I've got a little bit of news for you. Warner has
announced a Christmas Comedy Collection
(10/2 - contains Elf, A
Christmas Story and National
Lampoon's Christmas Vacation), NFL
America's Game 1-XL: Collector's Edition (10/23), Miss
B's Hair Salon, NFL Complete
Game Set: 1985 Chicago Bears and NFL
Games Archives: Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Oilers 1993 AFC Playoffs
(all 11/6 - hey, NFL, just once time can we Viking fans get thrown a
bone on DVD?), Clint Eastwood Presents
Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends, History
of Indiana Basketball and History
of Kentucky Basketball (11/13), Africa's
Wildlife Collection Giftset 6-Pack (for National
Geographic - 11/20 - contains Elephants,
Gorillas & Apes, Lions,
Predators & Hunters, River
& Ocean Dwellers and Zebras
& Rhinos) and NBA Player
Profile: Dwyane Wade (12/4).
And Universal has announced the DVD and DVD/HD-DVD Combo format
release of Evening on 9/25,
followed by an Animated Family Favorites
3-Movie Collection (SRP $26.98 - containing An
American Tail, Balto
and The Land Before Time) on
11/6 and a 26-disc, 6-season Northern
Exposure: The Complete Series Giftset on 11/13 (SRP
$199.98 - packed in 14 Thin Packs inside a faux suede messenger bag
with fleece lining).
Finally, on the high-def front today, LG is apparently cutting $200
from the price of its BH100 dual-format player, bringing the price
down to $999. This is in anticipation of the release of its new
BDP-UP5000 (expected to be priced at around $1049) later this year,
which will also be a dual format player and will be fully compatible
with both BD-Java and HDi as well. You can read more
at Home Media.
We've got more interesting new DVD and high-def announcements for
you all today.
First though, our own Adam Jahnke has turned in
installment of his Electric Theatre, featuring his
reviews of Sunshine, The
Bourne Ultimatum, Stardust
and Rush Hour 3, all of which
are now in theatres. He also reviews a few films available newly on
DVD (or soon to be) as well, including Sony's The
Lives of Others, and even mourns the loss of the infamous
Weekly World News. No kidding.
Check it out.
Okay... let's get to those announcements. 20th Century Fox has
revealed the DVD release of Timur Bekmambetov's Day
Watch: Unrated Extended Edition on 10/30 (SRP $27.98).
The disc will include the original theatrical Russian language
version of the film in anamorphic widescreen (which includes footage
not seen in theaters in the U.S.), an English dubbed audio option,
The Making of Day Watch
featurette, audio commentary with Bekmambetov, a U.S. theatrical
trailer, and original Russian trailers and TV spots.
Fox has also revealed The X-Files: The
Complete Collector's Edition, which is a 61-disc box set
due on 11/6 (SRP $329.98). The set will include all 198 episodes of
the series along with The X-Files: Fight
the Future feature film, plus a Season
One comic book, art cards, a poster for the theatrical
film and an additional bonus disc of extras. It appears that each of
the episode discs will include all of the bonus material that was on
the original DVD releases (deleted scenes, audio commentaries and
more), including the extras disc for each season (that featured TV
spots, deleted scenes, DVD-ROM interactive features and often a
documentary featurette on the season). The movie disc contains all
the bonus features on that release as well (including the DTS audio
track and director's commentary). Finally, the exclusive bonus disc
gathers all of the Threads of Mythology
featurettes from the more recent Mythology
DVD collections, including Abduction,
Oil and Super Soldiers.
All of it comes packaged in a custom slipcase. It's a lot of money
to be sure, but if you're an X-Files
fan, this thing includes everything you'd ever want. We're hoping
that Fox will eventually release this series on Blu-ray as well.
In addition, Fox will be releasing (for MGM) a number of new
catalog DVDs, including Mr. Brooks
on 10/23, and Return of the Living Dead
and a From Beyond: Unrated Director's Cut
Speaking of TV series in high-def, Buena Vista has again confirmed
with us that Lost: Season Three
will be released on Blu-ray Disc on 12/11. Watch for an announcement
You Pixar animation fans will also be interested to know that the
studio has also posted
exclusive preview of the Blu-ray version of Cars (due
11/6) on the Disney.com website. It features a look at some of the
BD-Java interactive features that have been created for the release.
Meanwhile, we might have missed this during all the EMA and
Comic-Con hubub, but Buena Vista has also announced the DVD release
of Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Third
Season and October Road: The
Complete First Season. Grey's
Anatomy: The Complete Third Season, Seriously Extended
hits DVD on 9/11 (SRP $59.99), two weeks before the start of the
show's fourth season on ABC. The 7-disc set will include all 25
episodes in anamorphic widescreen video, four of them extended
versions. Extras will include 4 featurettes (Making
Rounds with Patrick Dempsey, Shades
of Grey: One on One with Ellen Pompeo, Good
Medicine and Prescription for
Success), audio commentary on select episodes, unaired
scenes and bloopers. October Road: The
Complete First Season follows on 10/30 (SRP $29.99).
You'll get all the episodes in anamorphic widescreen video, the On
the Road and Road Tour
featurettes, audio commentary on the pilot and season finale,
deleted scenes, bloopers and a preview of the upcoming Season
While we're on the subject on TV, not much gets us excited anymore
in terms of TVD announcements... much less on HD-DVD. But we will
confess, this one does have us pretty interested: Universal has just
announced the HD-DVD format release of Battlestar
Galactica: Season One on 12/4 (SRP $99.98). The 6-disc
set will include the complete original miniseries and every Season
One episode, along with all of the extras from the
original DVDs (including the miniseries deleted scenes that were
part of the separate miniseries DVD, but not part of the previous
Season One release). New
extras for HD-DVD include an interactive Encyclopedia Galactica
guide to ships, characters and colonies and a flight training manual
(Carl Sagan, we feel your pain), as well as Picture in Picture
behind-the-scenes footage. Video is 1080p 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital
TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio.
Not only that, but Universal has also announced the Battlestar
Galactica: Razor - Unrated Director's Cut DVD, also due
on 12/4 (SRP $26.98). This will include an uncut version of the
2-part "bonus" episode slated to run on Sci-Fi in November
(11/24 to be exact). It's partly a flashback, telling the story of
what happened to Admiral Cain and her crew aboard the Battlestar
Pegasus during the initial Cylon attack on the colonies. It also
features the Galactica's crew (in the present) and it apparently
sets up a few story elements that will become important in the
show's fourth and final season, due to start airing on Sci-fi in
January. We hear that Razor
even holds a few surprises for fans of the original Battlestar
show, including a look at the original Cylon Centurions and Raiders
from the 70s series. With any luck, Universal will announce the
standard DVD release of Battlestar
Galactica: Season Three soon as well (they usually
release the DVDs about a month before the new season starts). We'll
Finally today, Warner has announced the DVD release of Trap
(for Lightyear) on 10/23.
We'll leave you with more new cover artwork... Lionsgate's Bug:
Special Edition (9/25), Warner's Stanley
Kubrick: Warner Director's Series box set (10/23), Sony's
Bram Stoker's Dracula (10/2)
and A Few Good Men (9/18) on
Blu-ray, and Universal's Evan Almighty
(10/9) and Knocked Up (9/25)
Okay... hope you guys all had a fine weekend. We've got lots of new
column goodness for you this afternoon.
But first, we'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of
TV legend Merv Griffin (click
here to read more on CNN). Not only was Griffin an acclaimed
talk show host, whose Merv Griffin Show
was a fixture in American households for more than 20 years, he was
also a TV game show mogul, having created such popular hits as Jeopardy
and Wheel of Fortune. Griffin
And there's a bit of release news to report this afternoon: 20th
Century Fox and MGM have set The Addams
Family: Volume Three for release on 9/11 (SRP $29.98).
The 3-disc set features 21 episodes, along with "Tombstone"
trivia on 1 episode, audio commentary by author Stephen Cox on 1
episode, and select scene commentary by Thing and Cousin Itt on 4
episodes. This is apparently the final volume of DVDs that Fox is
currently planning to release. Fox and MGM have also announced a
9-disc complete series box set of The
Addams Family for release on 11/13 (SRP $69.98).
Okay... around the site today, we've got a couple of new columns
for you. First up, our own Adam Jahnke has turned in
new edition of The Bottom Shelf, featuring a look at a
pair of recent George Clooney films on DVD from Warner...
Also today, we've got the first of two new columns from Barrie
Maxwell, starting with a new installment of his
Classics and Beyond. Barrie reviews 15 titles this time
around including 9 on Blu-ray Disc - Warner's
of the Bulge, Sony's
Earth: The Complete Series, DreamWorks'
of Our Fathers and Paramount's
Places - as well as 6 on HD-DVD - Warner's
of the Bulge and
of Our Fathers and Paramount's
Places. He'll be back in the next day or two with his
latest Classic Coming Attractions
And around the site this afternoon, Russell Hammond uploaded his
usual weekly update of the
DVD Cover Artwork section, including lots of new DVD,
Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD cover scans (and Amazon pre-order/purchase
links). Remember... every purchase you make though our links helps
support our work here at The Bits,
and we thank you for it.
Also today, we've kicked off FIVE new
here at The Bits, giving you
each the chance to take home copies of Warner's
Hunger Force: Colon Movie Film for Theaters for DVD,
Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show - The Complete Series,
The Miniseries, Paramount's
Park: The Complete Tenth Season, Fox's
Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season and New Line's
These contests will all run for TWO WEEKS, until Noon (Pacific) on
Sunday, August 26th. Click on the links to get started and good
(LATE UPDATE -
8/10/07 - 4 PM PDT)
We've got a little more cool new cover art for you this
afternoon... here's a look at the final art for Warner's Blade
Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition on both
Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD (due 12/18). Don't forget, both of the
5-disc sets will also be available in the limited edition briefcase
packaging as well (pictured below right) complete with all the cool
swag items. All of these (plus the various DVD versions) are now
available for pre-order now at Amazon.com. Whichever version you
choose, we expect this to be THE major contender for the best
special edition of 2007. It's going to be a helluva great release...
Also this afternoon, we've confirmed with the studio that Disney
has set the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of Pixar's animated Ratatouille
for 11/6. The DVD is expected to include a "making of"
documentary, deleted scenes and more. The Blu-ray will add to this a
BD-Java interactive game as well as other features. We should have
additional details and cover art next week.
And around the Net this afternoon, here's one more bit of evidence
of the increasing shift in overall momentum in the high-def format
war towards Blu-ray Disc: According to
story at Video Business, electronics retailers are
starting to report that, as Blu-ray player prices have dropped over
the summer and more models have become available, Blu-ray players
are now selling more strongly than HD-DVD players, despite the fact
that HD-DVD hardware prices are still lower. The retailers say that
no single Blu-ray player outsells Toshiba's HD-DVD players yet, but
collectively, Blu-ray players have begin to outsell HD-DVD in recent
weeks. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues going
into the holidays, especially given all of the recent Blu-ray
exclusive software announcements. We'd be surprised if both formats
didn't cut hardware prices even further over the next few months to
spur holiday sales.
By the way, one last bit of news: Microsoft is officially lowering
the price of its Xbox 360 game system by $50 starting this week. You
can read more on that
at Home Media Retailing.
(EARLY UPDATE -
8/10/07 - 12:45 PM PDT)
Okay... let's get some new announcement news out of the way
Let's do Universal first, after their tough day yesterday. The
studio has just announced the DVD release of Opus
n' Bill in A Wish for Wings That Work on 11/6. And if
that isn't enough for you, the studio has set Knocked
Up for release on 9/25, with Evan
Almightly due to follow on 10/9.
Knocked-Up will be available
in no less than four DVD versions - R-rated widescreen, Unrated (and
Unprotected) widescreen and Full Frame (SRP $29.98 each) and a
2-disc special edition in Unrated (and Unprotected) widescreen (SRP
$30.98), as well as an DVD/HD-DVD Combo version of the Unrated
edition (SRP $39.98). Extras will include audio commentary with
writer/director Judd Apatow, executive producer/star Seth Rogen and
actor Bill Hader, deleted scenes, extended and alternate scenes, a
gag reel, 4 featurettes (Line-O-Rama,
Roller Coaster Doc, Directing
the Director and Topless
Scene: Wed Design Company), and Loudon Wainwright III's
Live at McCabe's: You Can't Fail Me Now
music video. The HD version will add Picture in Picture video during
By comparison, Evan Almighty
will be available in a relatively meager three different versions,
including full frame and anamorphic widescreen DVDs (SRP $29.98
each) and a DVD/HD-DVD Combo version (SRP $39.98). Extras will
include deleted scenes, outtakes and 11 featurettes (Get
on Board, The Ark-itects of
Noah's Ark, Becoming Noah,
Steve Carell Unscripted, Animals
on Set Two by Two, Animal
Roundup Game, The Almighty
Green Set, It's Easy Being
Green, Acts of Random Kindness,
A Flood of Visual Effects and
The Almighty Forest). The HD
version will add Picture in Picture video, Ark Building for Dummies
pop-up 3D graphics, and an Animal Wrangler trivia track.
Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has set Deck
the Halls for release on DVD on 11/6. A Jingle
All the Way: Family Fun Edition is due on 10/16. A Commando:
Director's Cut and a Wall
Street: 20th Anniversary Edition are due on 9/18. And
from the MGM catalog, look for The
Initiation of Sarah on 10/20, a Species:
Collector's Edition and Species
IV: The Awakening on 10/2, and an 8-film, 4-disc Roger
Corman Collection box set on 9/18 (SRP $39.98 - includes
The Wild Angels, A
Bucket of Blood, Gas-s-s-s,
Premature Burial, X:
The Man with X-Ray Eyes, The
Trip, Bloody Mama
and The Young Racers).
Speaking of Corman, we may have mentioned this before, but Buena
Vista has set the cult director's Intruder:
Special Edition and an Eat My
Dust: Supercharged Edition for release on 9/25.
Sony has confirmed the 10/23 release of The
Company on 2-disc DVD and 2-disc Blu-ray. Sony has also
added Christmas Do-Over, Kings
of South Beach and Ice Spiders
to its 10/16 slate, along with a 2-disc Icons
of Horror Collection: Sam Katzman release (which includes
The Giant Claw, Creature
with the Atom Brain, Zombies
of Mora Tau and The Werewolf).
And Warner has set Elizabeth I
and Empire Falls (both for
HBO) for release on 8/28, along with numerous TV DVD "Emmy"
repromotes including seasons of Dallas,
The West Wing, The
Waltons and Murphy Brown.
Rich in Spirit is expected on
10/9 and Junior Defenders will
follow on 10/23. Also coming on 11/6 (for HBO) is Tom Hanks' Magnificent
Desolation: Walking on the Moon documentary.
Around the site today, we've updated a lot of the DVD and high-def
format stats we track (above),
including the full
DVD Player Sales numbers (at long last) through the third
week of July. The total number of DVD players shipped to retailers
since the format launched is now past the 130 million mark.
And we've got a bit of new cover for you to check out today as
well. Here's DreamWorks' Shrek the Third
(11/13), Universal's Evan Almighty
and Knocked-up: Unrated and Unprotected,
Paramount's Jack Ryan Collection
on Blu-ray and HD-DVD (9/25) and preliminary art for Sony's Close
Encounters of the Third Kind on Blu-ray (10/2)...
Back with more soon. Stay tuned...
All right... I've been working on our EMA Day Three coverage for
three days now, because there's a lot to talk about. I'd planned to
post it last night, but a question cropped up related to something
that happened during the HD-DVD panel discussion with Universal.
Specifically, I wanted to be sure of an answer that Universal EVP
for Marketing, Ken Graffeo, had given in response to a question from
the audience. Now our friends over at
Theater Forum videotaped the panel and have posted the
videos online... except during that key moment of the panel, Ron was
changing tapes on his camera, and so he missed Graffeo's response
(it would have occurred at the start of video #6 had it been
recorded). Luckily, several audience members made audio recordings,
so I was able to confirm that he'd said what I remembered he'd said.
That's even more important today, in light of a
that's been posted by Scott Hettrick over at Hollywood
Before I get into this, I want to be really clear about something.
Because the moment I get into this, there's going to be a small
group of guys who will start posting rumors on various discussion
forums online. Other than regular advertising payments, which we
accept from any and all studios who may wish to advertise on the
site, The Digital Bits has
never, and will never, accept money from anyone related to the
Blu-ray Disc camp for an endorsement of that format. PERIOD. I'm not
getting paid to endorse Blu-ray, none of our staffers are getting
paid to do so. I do not get paid by anyone connected to Hollywood
in Hi-Def.com. I contribute reviews there for free. Our
decision to select Blu-ray as our high-def format of choice here at
The Bits is our own - a
decision we arrived at based on long and careful deliberations
related to which format we thought had the best chance to win the
format war, and our belief that a quick end to the format war is in
the best interests of our readers and the industry as a whole.
Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who says we're paid shills
for the BD camp, is... flat-out... lying. Got that? Good.
Now then... as I said, Scott Hettrick's posted
article over at Hollywood in Hi-Def.com that I think
is well worth reading, because it speaks directly to something we've
suspected for a long time now: Specifically, that Universal is
getting financial incentives to create exclusive HD-DVD content -
something that Universal president Craig Kornblau does not deny. "I'm
not going to tell you that we don't cut financial deals with people
every day," he's quoted as saying in the piece. Now, there's
nothing wrong with that. A lot of studios have similar arrangements.
But it does speak to Universal's motivations in prolonging this
format war. And make no mistake about it, Universal is prolonging
this format war to keep HD-DVD alive, in the face of mounting
evidence that the majority of consumers interested in high-def discs
are choosing Blu-ray instead.
Kornblau further claims (according to the article) that Universal's
position in the format war is driven by a long-term and
consumer-focused strategy that is supported by Universal parent NBC
and corporate owner GE. And that's interesting, because Universal's
Ken Graffeo gave a different impression about GE's support of
Universal's position in the format war at our HD-DVD panel
discussion at EMA. Here's the relevant exchange. It starts with a
statement by an audience member, one of our group who attended EMA,
which soon becomes a question...
Audience member: My question
is, from the studio perspective, are you feeling the pressure of
being the only HD-DVD sole studio?
Graffeo: Don't forget about
Another audience member: Major
Audience member: Major studio.
Can you talk to that?
[unintelligible comment from a panelist or audience member]
Graffeo: I feel it every day.
[audience laughter] And I will also say that we're owned by GE, so
we do hear about it a lot. [more audience laughter]
Graffeo then goes on to comment in further detail about the format
war, and the European market, etc. You can listen to
MP3 clip of this specific exchange here, and we've posted
27MB zip file containing a much longer recording of the panel
discussion here, in addition to
videos available on HTF (between the videos and these
MP3s, you should have a near complete record of the panel
Now, when I heard this answer, I was pretty surprised. Graffeo
seems to be implying that GE has concerns about Universal's stance
in this format war. If you watch the videos of the panel, you'll
know that I asked a number of direct questions of the panelists
related to the format war (I'm the guy in beige in the audience),
and I was prepared to continue doing so. But when Graffeo answered
this question, in the way he did, I actually felt bad for the guy.
It was clear to me, and to others who were on hand to witness the
exchange (and I've confirmed today that many others who were there
shared the same impression), that Ken (and Universal as a whole) is
under a LOT of pressure related to his studio's exclusive support of
has even reported on this in recent weeks. So at that point, I
throttled back in my questioning. But his comments would seem to be
contradictory to those of Kornblau from Scott Hettrick's piece.
There's another issue here that's worth mentioning as well. Just a
few minutes before the exchange above, Graffeo was asked by an
audience member about the possibility of Steven Spielberg's films
appearing on HD-DVD. I believe it happens at the end of video clip
#4 on the HTF. Now... you may
recall that earlier this year (on 1/29 to be exact), the HD-DVD
Promotional Group had listed a number of Spielberg films on their
website with the suggestion that they were "Coming Soon"
to HD-DVD, including Jaws,
E.T. and Jurassic
Park. But shortly after they were posted, which caused an
understandable stir, the Group removed the titles from the site and
a retraction. To my knowledge, nothing more on the subject of
Spielberg on high-def came to light until Graffeo was asked by an
audience member (at the EMA panel two weeks ago) about the
possibility of Spielberg films on HD-DVD. Here's his answer:
Graffeo: In regards to the
Spielberg, um... it wasn't... Steven wanted to wait for DVD til
there was a higher penetration for that. Um... right now, with
100... 200,000 players and 150,000... he wants to wait til there's
more penetration. Because, um... you know when you do release... and
Jaws was the first Steven
Spielberg that we came out with, and at that time we released we
sold a million units. More than we'd ever sold on VHS. But you have
to have, sort of like... I don't want to say critical mass, because
you had close to 3 or 4 million households that had players... but
it's too early now. And I think we have to work very close with our
filmmakers because they have a very big part in what we do.
Okay... I bought that argument and I think so did everyone else at
the panel. And that would have been the last word on the subject...
EXCEPT that just a week later, Sony announced at Comic-Con the first
Steven Spielberg film to be released on high-definition, Close
Encounters of the Third Kind, EXCLUSIVELY on the Blu-ray
Disc format (on 10/2). Huh? Something doesn't jive here. Given his
position within the industry, and Universal's close ties with
Spielberg over the years, how did Graffeo not know this was coming
just a week later? And for those of you who would say that Sony
controls CE3K and not
Spielberg, I was told directly by Sony reps at Comic-Con that
Spielberg personally approved the high-def transfer of the film. Not
only that, he's recorded a new interview for the release. So he HAD
to have approved this. How does Universal not know that was coming?
In what light does that cast Graffeo's comments at EMA from just a
week earlier? And, maybe even more to the point, what does it say
about Spielberg's opinion of, and position on, this high-def format
war, when his first high-def disc release is a Blu-ray Disc
exclusive? Add to that Lucasfilm producer Rick McCallum's comments
from a few weeks ago at the Star Wars
Celebration convention in Europe, to the effect that if
Hollywood doesn't get its you-know-what together and end this format
war soon, Lucas might bypass high-def discs altogether and release
the Star Wars films in
high-def via download only. What does all that say about how good
this format war REALLY is for consumers, regardless of Universal's
belief that having helped to drive hardware prices down so quickly
justifies their position? Who, at this point, does continuing this
format war really benefit?
I have to tell you, folks... after our experience at EMA, and after
the many revelations and announcements at Comic-Con in the week
following, we remain more convinced than ever here at The
Digital Bits that Blu-ray Disc is going to win this
format war. It's clear to us that Universal is under significant
pressure to go format neutral, even from their own parent company,
and this pressure is only likely to increase as we approach the
holidays. Universal's position as the sole major HD-DVD exclusive
Hollywood studio is growing ever more precarious.
The fact is, high-def software sales continue to favor Blu-ray by a
2 or 3 to 1 margin, and the announcements of BD exclusive titles
like Spider-Man 1-3, Pirates:
Dead Man's Chest and CE3K
are only likely to increase consumer and retailer interest in
Blu-ray. That director Steven Spielberg would allow his first
high-definition title to be Blu-ray exclusive is a significant
development. The biggest HD-DVD announcement at Comic-Con was CBS's
Star Trek: Remastered, which
has priced itself right into the stratosphere. And the news that
Target stores and BJ's Wholesale are going Blu-ray exclusive in time
for the holidays would seem to us a rather strong indication of the
overall retail industry's desire for this format war to be over.
What's more, with sales of Warner's 300
now selling 65/35 in favor of Blu-ray, despite the effort by the
studio to create genuinely interesting HD-DVD exclusive interactive
piece at USA Today), it seems all too apparent that
consumers are making their format choice known to Hollywood. Indeed,
we're receiving more inquiries than ever before from readers who
have decided to get into high-definition, and want our advice on
purchasing the right Blu-ray player - a trend that reminds us
strongly of a similar surge of interest in DVD in the final days of
Circuit City's DIVX pay-per-view format. And after all of this, we
remain firmly convinced that the moment Universal announces that
it's going to start supporting both Blu-ray Disc as well as HD-DVD -
a move we see as inevitable at this point given continuing software
sales trends - the mainstream press will declare the format war over
and Blu-ray the winner. Retailers will quickly reorganize their
sales efforts towards Blu-ray and away from HD-DVD, if they haven't
already, and this thing will be done.
That's not to say that HD-DVD will disappear. Studios that
currently support the format will probably continue to do so. But
most retailers will likely not be as friendly. And as Blu-ray
hardware prices continue to drop moving into 2008 and beyond... the
choice for the vast majority of consumers interested in high-def on
disc will be even more obvious than it already is. Keep in mind, all
of this is playing out without a SINGLE new Blu-ray title
announcement from Fox or MGM... and Fox continues to tell me that
new announcements ARE coming.
It seems to us as if the writing is starting to appear on the wall.
Completely setting aside personal feelings about Sony or Toshiba or
Microsoft, how anyone can continue arguing at this point that HD-DVD
is going to win this format war is hard to comprehend. At this rate,
it's our belief that the best HD-DVD can hope for is to survive.
This is nothing personal, folks... it's just the way we see it.
By the way, for those of you interested in reading our EMA Day
Three report, it WILL be up soon.
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