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(Archived Posts 2/7/08 - 1/25/08)
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All right... let's talk more Warner Home Video classics. You guys
had questions, we've gone and gotten you answers. At least as many
as we could. So here goes...
The first concern many of you had after
post yesterday on the studio' big catalog press event, was
that it just didn't seem like that many titles were announced. There
were fears, accordingly, that perhaps Warner was cutting back on
their catalog operations. Rest assured, absolutely not true. As
Warner senior VP of classic catalog George Feltenstein told me
yesterday during our conference call, Warner is at the forefront of
the classic film business and they intend not only to stay there,
but even to expand their efforts.
At the press event on Tuesday, some 50 classic titles were hinted
at from the Warner library, because the event was designed to focus
on the Warner 85th Anniversary. However, I'm told that what was
announced is "just the tip of the iceberg." The studio
didn't want to give away EVERYTHING that they plan to do for the
year, so there are still plenty of surprises to be revealed. All
those titles that the studio has said in the past are coming (for
example in recent Home Theater Forum
chats) are STILL coming, sooner or later. Not the least of what's
also coming includes "dozens and dozens" of new-to-DVD
classic titles from the other film libraries Warner owns, including
older MGM titles and films from RKO, Allied Artists, etc.
Here's something exciting that I learned yesterday: It's Warner's
goal (by mid to late summer) that going forward, EVERY TIME they
issue a new catalog special edition on standard DVD, the title will
also available day-and-date on Blu-ray Disc as well. George wanted
to stress Warner's absolute commitment to Blu-ray, not just on the
new release front but with catalog material too. They don't want
situations where people have to wonder, "Should I buy the DVD
now or should I wait for a Blu-ray version?" of a classic
title. They intend for that choice to be available day-and-date with
every new restoration/special edition release they do. Warner
doesn't want there to BE a wait.
One of the biggest issues they've had to deal with is something
that all the Hollywood studios are discovering with their catalog
titles: The previous 1080i film transfers they've done were fine for
DVD release, but it turns out that they just aren't quite good
enough to release on Blu-ray. So they're having to go back and do
all-new 1080p transfers for Blu-ray release. That amounts to four or
five years of work that needs to be redone in some cases, and that
obviously takes time, because Warner - probably more than any other
studio - is determined to do it right.
In terms of the specific titles I was able to confirm are coming to
Blu-ray, here's what I can tell you: Bonnie
and Clyde will be available in both Blu-ray and HD-DVD
(both in the Ultimate Collector's Edition versions). All five Dirty
Harry films will also be available in Blu-ray disc (but
not HD-DVD - this corrects an error in our original Tuesday post).
The Batman Begins: Ultimate Collector's
Edition will be released in Blu-ray this year, and it
will have everything that was on the HD-DVD release and possibly
more. Warner is at work on bringing the rest of the Batman
live-action films (from their previous Batman
Anthology on DVD) to Blu-ray, but that might take longer.
Rest assured, though, they are in the works. Other titles announced
at the event and confirmed for Blu-ray are How
the West Was Won, Gigi
(a full 4K restoration) and An American
in Paris (the first new Ultra Resolution restoration on
Blu-ray). In fact, going forward, any time the studio completes a
new Ultra Resolution restoration, you can expect both a DVD and
Blu-ray Disc release of the title in question. The A
Christmas Story: Ultimate Collector's Edition may also be
released in Blu-ray, but they're still planning what new extras are
going to be created for the release (and the film itself is already
on Blu-ray). Many additional Blu-ray Disc catalog titles are still
yet to be announced, but rest assured that there are more coming.
For example, those of you who have been upset about the fact that
certain key classic (and newer catalog) titles were released on
HD-DVD, but still haven't been released on Blu-ray, needn't worry.
They're ALL coming to Blu-ray in the months ahead. Think Mutiny
on the Bounty, Forbidden
Adventures of Robin Hood, Grand
Prix, V for Vendetta.
Yes, all of The Matrix films
are coming. The first of these previously HD-DVD exclusive titles
hat you're likely to see on Blu-ray very soon is The
Adventures of Robin Hood, a title for which the Blu-ray "disc
image" is already complete.
As for other titles, yes... Clash of the
Titans is coming. Heat
needs a new 1080p transfer, but director Michael Mann has agreed to
supervise one, so as soon as the studio can get the work finished
properly, you'll see that title released on Blu-ray. Twister
is coming to Blu-ray (and HD-DVD, both in May). As for those titles
we mentioned yesterday that are going on moratorium (The
Wizard of Oz, Gone with the
Wind, Woodstock and
North by Northwest), the
moratorium begins at the end of February, and then they'll come back
in 2009 - probably with largely the same extras on DVD (as they've
already had elaborate special editions on DVD), but they'll be
all-new on Blu-ray. Better still, I learned of an additional major
classic catalog title that you can look forward to on Blu-ray in
2009, just in time to celebrate the film's 50th anniversary... Ben-Hur
(though no moratorium on the standard DVD is planned). After all, as
George told me (and I could tell he was smiling when he said it), "How
better to celebrate a milestone like that than by watching the
chariot race in 1080p?" George Feltenstein, some of you will be
happy to learn, is as big a fan of these classic films as anyone...
and NO ONE knows them better. Those of you familiar with George from
his HTF chats (not to mention
own past interviews with him) will know what I'm talking
about. He's EXACTLY the guy you'd want helping to oversee the
release of classic titles on disc at a studio like Warner.
Some other stuff worth mentioning...
One of the challenges Warner faces in releasing its classic titles
on Blu-ray, is one of expectations. Warner is obviously spending
lots of time and money to complete their classic film restorations,
in order to get these films looking terrific on DVD and Blu-ray. But
no matter how much time and money the studio puts into them, the
reality is that classic films are never going to look as good in
1080p as brand new films, or CG titles like Cars.
But many who watch these discs don't fully understand that. It's
something we've already heard from even a few experienced DVD
watchers in recent months. There were some people, for example, who
were initially surprised and disappointed at the look on Blu-ray of
Sony's Close Encounters. We
got more than a few e-mails saying, "Why is there so much
grain!?" But savvy cinephiles knew that what they were seeing
on Blu-ray was truly special: The film looking better than they'd
ever seen it before, even back during its original theatrical run in
1977. People need to understand that classic films are only going to
look as good in 1080p as the elements allow. You're going to see
grain and other issues. But they're supposed to be there - it's part
of the experience. The whole idea behind releasing classic films in
high-definition is NOT to make them look like a new CG film, but to
recreate the best original experience of seeing these films in an
actual theatre. It's not about creating perfect, but rather
perfectly right. Because of these initial unrealistic expectations,
Warner has decided to delay the release of Clash
of the Titans a few months. People have the expectation
of perfection right now - perfect images are what's selling
high-definition. Clash of the Titans
looks perfect for what it is, and again a lot of time and money was
spent to make it look as good as it can be. But it's not going to
stack up against, say I Am Legend
or The Matrix, so the studio
is holding it back for a little while. In general, however, you
should know that whenever Warner delays the release of a classic
title, it's usually because the studio wants to get it right and
really wants to take the extra time to get it there. They don't want
to release ANYTHING before it's ready.
The other issue facing the studio right now, is that catalog sales
are down a bit - not just for Warner but industry wide. Particularly
on high-def, catalog sales aren't what's driving the early growth of
the format. Just as it was in the early days of DVD, most early
adopters and A/V enthusiasts all seem to want action films and
science fiction and other dazzling eye candy to show off their
displays and other equipment. It's new releases that are selling the
highest. So the bottom line is that those of you who want more
classic catalog on Blu-ray (and DVD for that matter), need to all
get out there and support the titles that do come out. Buy them and
show the studio that classic film fans are willing to justify the
effort and expense involved in releasing them. Rest assured,
however, that Warner is totally committed to not only continuing its
catalog efforts on DVD, but also expanding them to Blu-ray as well.
There are lots of great titles are on the way. And of course, the
studio will continue releasing select titles on HD-DVD through 5/31.
Finally, there was one other concern many of you Blu-ray
enthusiasts had for Warner. Specifically, a lot of you said you
wanted to studio to start including lossless audio on ALL Blu-ray
Disc releases, both new and catalog. Rest assured, the right people
have heard your concern (naturally, George was already aware of it)
and you can safely assume that the studio intends to start
addressing it in the near future.
That's all for now. Stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE 2/6/08 - 3 PM PST)
Okay folks... we've heard your e-mails! Bits
readers have had literally hundreds of questions about Warner's
catalog plans for 2008 and beyond after
post this morning on their big press event yesterday. So I
sent out a few e-mails this morning, the result of which is that
I've just gotten off a lengthy follow-up conference call with WHV
catalog gurus George Feltenstein, Ronnee Sass and Tom Lucas. Not
only have I received answers to many questions, I've actually
learned even more about the studio's classic catalog plans.
Accordingly, I'm about to start working on another substantial post
on the subject, and we'll have it for you early tomorrow morning on
The Bits (as early as I can
get it done).
Until then, as always... stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE 2/6/08 -
12:30 PM PST)
All right... so I've managed to catch a few winks after Warner's
big 85th Anniversary shindig last night. Now it's time to get a few
odds and ends out of the way.
First up, we've received a lot of questions from readers about
which specific Warner catalog titles we mentioned this morning would
be finding their way to Blu-ray Disc later this year. So we've
requested more details on this from the studio, and we'll post them
here as soon as we can. And yes, we DID ask about The
Matrix films. ;)
Also, I wanted to post a quick reminder about
our current Digital
Bits Power Buy with DocDVD. We've been offering a
special price on Pioneer's Elite Pro-150 Kuro plasma, but there's
only a handful of them left - just FIVE units. So if you want to
take advantage, be sure to act fast. Click on the link (or
here) for all
Now then... around the Net this afternoon,
Media has a piece up on the Warner event today.
Also, Mike Clark over at the
Today has posted a new article on the format war this
afternoon. Now that Blu-ray seems to be winning the war against
HD-DVD, the piece notes, the next struggle for the format will be to
convince mainstream consumers as a whole to jump in. I'm quoted a
couple times in the story, including here:
The Digital Bits' Hunt, who still has a small
collection of laserdiscs he won't part with, initially worried that
the format war could marginalize the discs. But now, he thinks
Blu-ray could flourish. "I have a feeling that even those who
said 'DVD is good enough for me,' once they start watching high-def,
will change their mind."
I wanted to follow up on this comment a little more today. You
know, for a long time, I thought that the quality of upconverted
anamorphic DVDs would be good enough for most people, even after
they upgraded to true HDTV displays. The fact is, that's WHY we
fought so hard over the years here at The
Bits to get the anamorphic option used widely by
Hollywood. We wanted people's DVD libraries to be as long lasting in
terms of quality and value as possible. I still do think that DVD
will be good enough for many people going forward. But one of the
interesting things we've been noticing lately here at The
Bits, is that when friends and relatives have finally
purchased HDTVs, once they start watching a lot of true 1080
content... they get hooked. And once they're hooked, they start
actively looking for more HD content to watch. Several people I
personally know who recent purchased an HD display started out
convinced that DVD was good enough for them... and now they own
Blu-ray players. So you never know. Never underestimate the
persuasive power of pretty images, I guess. As the price for Blu-ray
players continues to drop - and THAT'S KEY, it MUST continue to drop
- the format might not have such a hard time catching on after all.
The good news, however, is that all your existing DVDs still have a
lot of quality left in them, and will look and sound even better as
you buy new Blu-ray players and otherwise upgrade your home theater
equipment. Hey, I don't know about you, but I still buy the
occasional music CD more than thirty years after the CD format was
first introduced. I've still got a VCR and few VHS tapes, though
lord knows I haven't used them in a long time. The point is, DVD is
only ten years old. Even as Blu-ray starts to really catch on over
the next couple years, DVD isn't going away anytime soon. Plus, just
THINK of all the titles that are on DVD - many tens of thousands!
The fact is, many of these will never be released in high-def. I
mean, I'd LOVE to think that obscure films like Zatoichi
Challenged will appear on Blu-ray eventually, but the
reality is that I feel damn lucky just to have them on standard DVD.
I'm old enough to recall a time not that long ago (just a decade in
fact) when, if you wanted to see an interesting art film or foreign
title, you had to be fortunate enough to have a good art house
theater in your area - because those kinds of films just weren't
available on VHS. And there was no Amazon, so you were limited to
ordering out of an enthusiast catalog, or you were stuck with
whatever your local video store carried. So you know... you take
what you can get. Anyway, I'm betting that DVD and Blu-ray can (and
will) coexist just fine, that Blu-ray will become a fairly
substantial market, and that downloading is at least a decade away
from having a real impact on the mainstream consumer video market.
Back tomorrow with more, so stay tuned!
(EARLY UPDATE 2/6/08
- 12:01 AM PST)
Okay, first things first: Our own Russell Hammond has completed his
weekly update of the
DVD Cover Art section, featuring lots of new DVD, Blu-ray
and HD-DVD cover scans and Amazon pre-order links. Keep in mind that
anything you order through our Amazon links helps to support our
work here at The Bits, and we
surely do appreciate it.
Now then... let's get to the good stuff. In a press event at the
Stephen J. Ross Theatre on the Warner backlot last night, Warner
Home Video unveiled key details of their 2008 DVD and Blu-ray Disc
release slate, celebrating the studio's 85th Anniversary. On hand
for the presentation was WHV president Ron Sanders, along with Jeff
Baker, George Feltenstein, Ronnee Sass, Tom Lucas and other
executives, as well as special guests like actor Warren Beatty,
directors McG and Richard Schickel, singer Nancy Sinatra and other
members of the Sinatra family.
Jeff Baker and Ron Sanders, with director Richard Schickel
The planned 2008 slate itself is broken up into NINE different
promotions: Oscars, Gangsters, Sinatra, Dirty Harry, 85 Years of
Superheroes, Westerns, Musicals, Horror and Holiday. Warner revealed
that Best Buy and Amazon.com are set to be the studio's official
retail partners for these promotions.
Starting in the 1st Quarter, the Oscar and Gangster promotions will
include the Bonnie and Clyde: Ultimate
Collector's Edition (available on DVD, Blu-ray and
HD-DVD) and the Bonnie and Clyde: Special
Edition, along with such titles as the Goodfellas:
Special Edition, the Heat:
Special Edition, the Once Upon
a Time in America: Special Edition, the Departed,
the True Romance: Special Edition,
the Film Noir Classics Collection:
Volumes 1-4, the Warner Bros.
Tough Guys Collection, the Warner
Gangsters Collection (featuring titles like Public
Enemy, Little Caesar,
etc) and more.
The Sinatra and Dirty Harry promotions will debut in the 2nd
Quarter. Sinatra will include the Sinatra
mini-series, along with the four box sets
mentioned yesterday (The Early
Years, The Golden Years,
the Sinatra & Kelly Collection
and the Rat Pack: Ultimate Collector's
Edition - the Rat Pack: UCE
will include "first-run" stamps, a music CD and other rare
collectibles). The Dirty Harry promotion will include the Dirty
Harry: 2-Disc Special Edition, the Magnum
Force: Deluxe Edition, The
Enforcer: Deluxe Edition, the Sudden
Impact: Deluxe Edition and the Dead
Pool: Deluxe Edition. All five films will also be
included in a Dirty Harry: Ultimate
Collector's Edition box set (available in DVD, Blu-ray
and HD-DVD), which will also feature the Clint
Eastwood: Out of the Shadows bonus disc.
The 3rd Quarter will offer Superhero fans something exciting: a
Batman Begins: Limited Collector's
Edition Gift Set on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, as well as a
Batman Anthology box set of
all the feature film titles on Blu-ray Disc. These are obviously
timed to coincide with the DVD and Blu-ray release of The
Dark Knight. Additional superhero releases are TBA. The
3rd Quarter will also offer several Western releases, including a
How the West Was Won: Ultimate
Collector's Edition and a How
the West Was Won: Special Edition, along with such titles
as The Searchers, The
Wild Bunch, The Cowboys,
an Errol Flynn Westerns Collection
and a Western Classics Collection.
Finally, the 3rd Quarter will see a Music promotion featuring new
special editions of An American in Paris
and Gigi, as well the debut of
the Classic Musicals from the Dream
Factory: Volume 3 box set, featuring Hit
the Deck, Kismet,
Deep in My Heart, Broadway
Melody of 1936/Broadway Melody of 1938, Born
to Dance/Lady Be Good and Nancy
Goes to Rio/Two Weeks with Love.
Rounding out 2008, the 4th Quarter will see the debut of a new DVD
Horror collection with titles featuring Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre
and others, as well as more horror releases from Val Lewton and Joel
Silver's Dark Castle label, re-promotion of Kubrick's The
Shining and a number of new Raw Feed direct-to-DVD and
Blu-ray titles, including Otis: Uncut.
The 4th Quarter will also see a Warner
Bros. Holiday Collection and A
Christmas Story: Ultimate Collector's Edition.
As part of the year's overall slate, more than 50 new-to-DVD
feature films will be restored and released from the Warner catalog
alone, including such titles as All This
and Heaven Too, The Beast with
Five Fingers, Black Legion,
Brother Orchid, Deception,
Flamingo Road, Gold
Diggers of 1937, Inside Daisy
Clover, Kid Galahad,
Lady Killer, The
Mayor of Hell, Night Nurse,
None But the Brave, Pete
Kelly's Blues, San Antonio,
Thank Your Lucky Stars, Three
on a March, Virginia City
and Watch on the Rhine.
Other titles set to be given special edition treatment this year
are Cool Hand Luke, Gypsy,
Risky Business, Splendor
in the Grass and others yet to be announced. Additional
thematic box sets will be drawn from Warner's classic MGM and RKO
collections. It was also revealed that a collection of Natalie Woods
titles is in the works.
Several special events will be held throughout the course of the
year, including an August 31st Warner Big Picture night at the
Hollywood Bowl, celebrating the studio's musical legacy. The
highlight of the year's events will be the broadcast and DVD release
of Richard Schickel's 5-part documentary series You
Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story on the history
of the studio, narrated by Clint Eastwood. The broadcast version
will debut in September, as part of PBS's American
Masters series, and a 550-page companion book (by
Schickel and The Times of London
film critic George Perry) will be released as well. As part of last
night's event, Schickel gave the media a 10-minute sneak peek at a
portion of his documentary series examining Warner films in the
context of World War II.
The studio also revealed during the event that last year's Blade
Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition and Harry
Potter: Years 1-5 - Limited Edition Collection were
tremendously successful releases, generating more than $20 million
in combined sales in the 45-day holiday period alone.
In terms of new titles in the year ahead, you can obviously look
forward to the DVD and Blu-ray debut of such theatrical release
films as The Dark Knight, Speed
Racer, Get Smart,
Where the Wild Things Are,
10,000 B.C. and Harry
Potter and the Half-Blood Price, later in 2008 and early
Finally, studio reps revealed that 4 major catalog titles (The
Wizard of Oz, Gone with the
Wind, Woodstock and
North by Northwest) are all
soon going on moratorium. The good news is, each will reappear in
2009 in day-and-date DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases, complete with
stunning new high-definition restorations to celebrate their own
We'll post details about the specific Blu-ray Disc catalog releases
planned as part of Warner's 2008 slate soon, so keep checking back.
And watch for additional titles to be announced by Warner in the
George Feltenstein and actor Warren Beatty
Thanks to Alex Berliner of Berliner Studio/BEImages for the photos
(above). Thanks also to everyone at Warner Home Video and Carl
Samrock PR for all their hard work in hosting last night's event.
Boy, what a Super Tuesday? Isn't it Super? That's what they say
anyway. You're going to be hearing about how Super it is all day, so
I just thought I'd help you get used to it. Make sure you all get
out there and... you know... be Super.
First up today, we've got
brand new High-Definition Matters column (formerly
High Definition Classics and Beyond)
from our own Barrie Maxwell for you. In this first installment,
Barrie checks out Paramount's
Director's Cut (HD-DVD), Fox's
Myself & Irene and
Street (all Blu-ray), and Sony's
the Universe and
Evil (also Blu-ray). He also
a look ahead at what's known to be coming to Blu-ray and
HD-DVD later in 2008. Enjoy!
All right, we've got plenty of announcement news to report. First
up, 20th Century Fox has set Alvin and
the Chipmunks for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 4/1,
and both will feature Digital Copy versions of the film. You can
at Video Business.
Speaking of Fox, this would normally go in The
Rumor Mill so salt it accordingly, but sources are
telling us to expect the studio to release the Oscar-nominated Juno
on DVD and Blu-ray somewhere in the April-ish time frame as well.
to Home Media Retailing, News Corp president and COO
Peter Chernin has reported that Fox's filmed entertainment division
generated its fourth highest revenues ever in 2007. And according to
the piece's headline, Chernin apparently expects
"Blu-ray Consumer Spending to Top $1
Billion in 2008".
Amazon is currently reporting a 5/6 street date for Genius Products
and The Weinstein Company's Bob Dylan biopic I'm
Not There. The retailer also has a 3/25 street date
listed for Frank Darabont's The Mist
in single-disc and two-disc SE DVD editions (also from Genius and
Sony has announced the DVD release of And
Justice for All and Bobby
Deerfield on 3/11, followed by The
Good Night on 4/1. The studio has also announced A
Passage to India as a Blu-ray Disc, a single-disc DVD and
a 2-disc DVD Collector's Edition. Look for that to street on 4/15,
along with DVD editions of Impulse
and Loch Ness Terror. Special
features on Passage will
include Reflections of David Lean
audio commentary with producer Richard Goodwin and 6 featurettes (E.M.
Forster: Profile of an Author, An
Epic Takes Shape, An Indian
Affair, Only Connect: A Vision
of India, Casting a Classic
and David Lean: Shooting with the Master).
The Blu-ray will also add an exclusive "graphic and picture"
Meanwhile, Buena Vista has set Greek:
Season One, Chapter One for release on DVD on 3/18.
They've also set The Classic Caballeros
Collection (includes Saludos
Amigos and The Three
Caballeros) for DVD release on 4/29. The studio will also
release National Treasure and
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
on Blu-ray Disc on 5/20 (the latter day and date with the standard
We've learned that Paramount has moved the street date for The
Animation Show: Volume 3 from 5/13 to 6/3. The studio has
also announced the DVD release of Drawn
Together - Uncensored!: Season Three for 5/13, followed
by Exes and Ohs: The Complete First
Season, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.:
The Fourth Season and JAG: The
Sixth Season on 5/20.
Digital Leisure has set Don Bluth's classic Space
Ace disc-based game for release on Blu-ray Disc and
HD-DVD on 4/8. The company also plans to release Dragon's
Lair II: Time Warp in both formats later this year.
New Line has set Ricki Lake's documentary The
Business of Being Born for DVD release on 5/6 (SRP
Just in case we haven't mentioned this previously, Universal has
set Saturday Night Live: The Complete
Third Season for release on DVD on 5/13 (SRP $59.98) as a
7-disc set. It includes 20 uncut episodes, plus all the original
Warner has announced The Weekend
for release on 4/29 (for Polychrome), followed by Frank
Sinatra: The Early Years Collection ($39.92 - Double
Dynamite, It Happened in
Brooklyn, Step Lively,
Higher and Higher and The
Kissing Bandit), Frank
Sinatra: The Golden Years Collection (SRP $39.92 - Marriage
on the Rocks, None But the
Brave, Some Came Running,
Man with the Golden Arm and
The Tender Trap), The
Frank Sinatra & Gene Kelly Collection ($24.98 - On
the Town, Take Me Out to the
Ball Game and Anchors Aweigh),
Sinatra (the miniseries) and
The Rat Pack: Ultimate Collector's
Edition ($59.92 - Ocean's 11,
Robin and the 7 Hoods, 4
for Texas and Sergeants 3,
along with a booklet, poster art cards and more) all on 5/13.
Finally, look for Maggie Smith at the BBC
And speaking of Warner, be sure to check back here at The
Bits late tonight or early tomorrow for a sneak peek at
the studio's DVD and Blu-ray release plans for the rest of 2008.
being reported that Jim Ward is stepping down as president of
LucasArts. Ward was formerly senior VP of marketing for Lucasfilm,
and we've known him as such for a long time - going all the way back
to the release of Episode I on
DVD. Ward's a good guy. We've missed him lately at Lucasfilm, and we
certainly wish him well in whatever he's up to next.
Morning all! Yeah, I know... some of you have the post Superbowl
blues today. Hang in there, it gets better with time.
We're pleased today to kick off the week with something of a rarity
around here lately:
new Yellow Layer Failure column from our own Robert A.
Harris. Those of you who have already gotten into high-def discs,
have needed to do a firmware update... and had to speak with a "helpful"
customer service agent... will get a kick out of what he has to say
this morning. Enjoy. ;)
Also this morning, those of you who enjoy The
Rumor Mill (and Blu-ray release news) will appreciate
update of the section, so do check it out.
Around the Net today, there are reports coming out of Hollywood
that the writer's strike may be over, or at least may be very close
to over. Click
for more on this from Deadline Hollywood
Daily and Variety.
Cinema Choice appears to have confirmed something we
predicted many months ago: Specifically, that Toshiba's aggressive
price-cutting on their HD-DVD hardware would discourage other
manufacturers, in this case Onkyo, from supporting the format.
Finally this morning, I wanted to say a few words about Juno.
Sarah and I caught a screening on Saturday night. Now I know why
this film is getting all the attention. It's just a terrific little
gem. I was actually surprised when it was nominated for Best
Picture, not having seen it yet. But I'll tell you, not only does
the film deserve the nomination, I actually think it's got an
outside chance at winning, especially if No
Country for Old Men and There
Will Be Blood - both fantastic films in their own right -
split Oscar voters. Juno is
just absolutely charming, funny and original. I'd heard that the
dialogue was a little too cute for its own good at times, and
sometimes that's true. But I think it's also true that the dialogue
just takes a little getting used to at first. Once you adjust, star
Ellen Page's performance is something wonderful to see. Juno
really sneaks up on you. It's a breath of fresh air, and it's WELL
worth your time. For once I actually didn't mind dropping $11 for a
movie ticket. And that's saying something.
Watch for a new column from Barrie tomorrow. Stay tuned...
Talk about an anti-climax. Not the Superbowl - holy smokes was that
a great game. You had a defensive slug-fest, but still you had some
big plays and repeated lead changes, and in the end it came down to
the last few seconds. It came down to who wanted it more and how
much gas was left in the tank on each side.
No, I'm talking about Toshiba's big "Hail Mary" Superbowl
ad buy. So I'm watching the game, keeping my eyes peeled for the ad
to see what kind of big surprise the HD-DVD camp cooked up for the
much-hyped spot. Would they go for humor, would they pull out a
celebrity endorsement, would they announce some kind of surprise
exclusive title? And then there it was, right before the halftime
show. And the answer to all three questions was: Nope. Now, maybe it
was different in different markets around the country. But the spot
I saw here in Southern California, talking about how great Toshiba's
high-definition DVD format is... was broadcast in standard
definition. And it was window boxed. And THAT was the only surprise.
Okkaaaaaaaayyy. Maybe not the route I would've gone, but you
know... whatever. Turns out Toshiba must have spent their ad money
locally rather than nationally, and then selectively too, because
we're already hearing from readers that the spot didn't even air in
many markets around the country.
Speaking of ads, I think E-Trade gets my nod for the best spot(s).
The talking stain and the pigeons were pretty good too. You can
watch them all here.
Toshiba's ad is suspiciously absent.
Anyway, congrats to you Giants fans. Lucky bastards. Goodness, what
an upset! And congrats to Patriots fans too on an amazing season. As
a Vikings fan, I feel your pain, believe me. But still, an amazing
season is still amazing, Superbowl or no.
See y'all in the morning. Stay tuned...
Here Be High-Def Dragons
Okay... let's just get this over with right up front: The Nielsen
VideoScan software sales numbers for the week ending 1/27 are now in
- the THIRD full week of data after the Warner announcement. And
once again, HD-DVD's been taken to the woodshed...
Not really much need for comment there. The numbers speak for
The only other bit of high-def news today is that Disney has
confirmed the continuation of their Magical Blu-ray Mall Tour by
seven more cities and dates: Toronto, Canada - January 25-27
(Yorkdale Shopping Center), Farmington, CT - February 15-18
(Westfarms Mall), Raleigh, NC - February 22-24 (Triangle Town
Center), Nashville, TN - February 28 - March 1 (Cool Springs
Galleria), Hurst, TX - March 7-9 (North East Mall), Denver, CO -
March 14-16 (Flat Iron Crossing), Chicago, IL - July 23-27 (UNITY
Okay... that's it for the high-def stuff per se today, other than
some title release news as follows...
Warner Home Video has announced some of the details you can expect
on I Am Legend. There will be
three DVD editions - single-disc full frame and anamorphic
widescreen, as well as a 2-disc Special
Edition (all on 3/18). SRP is $28.98 for the single-disc
and $34.99 for the 2-disc. The single-disc DVD will offer 4 "animated
comics" (including Death As a Gift,
the Few for the Many and Shelter)
and DVD-ROM links to an online "databank." The 2-disc
edition will add a second disc featuring an unrated "alternate
theatrical version" of the film with a "controversial"
ending. The Blu-ray Disc will include all of the DVD extras (SRP
$35.99 - street date also 3/18). The HD-DVD version (SRP also
$35.99) will be a combo release - likely Warner's last major new
release title on the format. But it'll street three weeks later, on
Warner has also announced that they're releasing Leonardo
DiCaprio's global warming documentary, The
11th Hour, on DVD on 4/8 for an SRP of just $4.99. You
can visit the
official site here.
Meanwhile, Sony has finally unveiled their revised cover art for
the Gattaca: Special Edition
on DVD and Blu-ray (3/11 - see art below), and it looks like the
release will include some newly-produced extras. From the previous
DVD release you'll get deleted scenes, the "substance test"
outtake and the original featurette. New to this edition are the
Welcome to Gattaca featurette
and the Do Not Alter?
Here's the cover art for Warner's I Am
Legend: Special Edition on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as
The 11th Hour, both editions
of Sony's Gattaca: Special Edition
(FYI, the links are right but Amazon has the wrong art up), and
Paramount's The Invaders: The First
Also today, Anchor Bay will be releasing Sci-Fi's Painkiller
Jane: The Complete Series on DVD on 3/25 (SRP $49.97).
You'll get all the episodes on 6 discs, along with audio
commentaries and the Behind Budapest: The
Making of Painkiller Jane featurette. Sadly, the somewhat
superior ORIGINAL Painkiller Jane
Sci-Fi Channel film is MIA.
Universal will release an Alvin and the
Chipmunks: Scare-riffic Double Feature on 3/11 (includes
Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein
and Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the
Wolfman), followed by Transformation:
The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard on 5/13 and All
Hat on 5/27.
And several readers have e-mailed to say that Howard
the Duck has also been released on DVD in Germany, and
will debut in Australia on 3/3. Still no word of an official U.S.
Can't forget to mention the Super Bowl this weekend. Not sure who
to root for, but as a Vikings fan, it's hard not to want to side
with Randy Moss and the Patriots. I suspect their wide-outs are
going to prove too much for New York's secondary, but you never
know. I'm just hoping it's a good game. Tom Petty's doing the
halftime show too. And if none of this appeals you to you, there's
Bowl IV over on Animal Planet.
Finally this afternoon, we'll leave you with
little something funny from The Jimmy Kimmel Show last
night (via the always excellent Tyler
Durden). Seems his girlfriend Sarah Silverman was having
a little fun with Jimmy, and Matt Damon played along. If you're
easily offended by blue language, you might want to steer clear. But
the rest of you should get a kick out of it.
Have a great weekend! You too, Jimmy. ;)
How's about a couple more disc reviews today? Peter Schorn has
checked in with a look at Universal's
Bourne Ultimatum and New Line's
Hour 3: Two-Disc Platinum Series on DVD. Jeff Kleist has
also added his thoughts on Fox's
Nation: The Ultimate Movie Collection on DVD, which has
been a Best Buy exclusive but will be released widely in April.
In announcement news today, our friends over at
Shows on DVD are reporting that Universal will release
The Incredible Hulk: Seasons 3 & 4
on DVD on 6/3.
also reporting that Koch will return The
Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers to DVD in May.
And here's a surprise... Howard the Duck
is being released on DVD in the U.K. on 2/18!
here for the listing on Play.com. Go figure. Thanks to Bits
reader Mat R. for the link.
Around the Net today, there's not a lot of news other than a couple
of quick high-def related stories. First, Sony has reported earnings
increases based on the strength of better PS3 sales. And Sonic
Solutions, which makes DVD and high-def authoring software for the
home video industry (specifically, a program called Scenarist), has
apparently decided to eliminate HD-DVD format support. You can read
more about these stories
at Video Business.
By the way, quick and completely non-DVD related side note: Has
anyone out there got an Ace Combat 6
flight stick set for sale - new or used? This shows you how much of
a gamer I am. I've never been a big FPS fan, and I'm way too cheap
to spend $60 on almost ANY new game (other than maybe Madden
NFL). But I'm a sucker for a good flight combat sim, and
they're few and far between these days. So I'm in the store the
other day, and I see Ace Combat 6
for the 360, and I couldn't resist. I get the game home, and really
dig it. Amazing graphics. Story and cut scenes are typically lame,
but the game play's a blast. So anyway, now I come to find out that
the damn thing came out months ago in a version bundled with a
flight stick and throttle! And I'm thinking, "Oh hell... you
KNOW I gotta have that." Sure. Right. As those of you laughing
right now already know, it's LONG sold out everywhere. There are a
bunch on eBay, but most include the game, and all I need are the
sticks and the manuals. So anyway... if anyone out there has played
the game through 'til you're bored with it, and you're looking to
sell the controllers, drop
me an e-mail would ya?
See... this is what happens when you get old, kids. The whole
gaming thing just starts passing you buy. Trust me, it'll happen to
you too eventually. Time was, I was a quarter-dropping arcade hero,
who ruled at Time Pilot and
Bosconian. Then like 20 years
go by, and even though I'm only 40, I might as well be shuffling
along with a walker, holding a cone up to my ear. But trust me...
some day, you guys are gonna be sitting down to play PS9 or Xbox 3D
or Nintendo Pi with your grandkids, and you'll be looking around
like "All right, where's the controller?" and they'll just
roll their eyes and say, "Controller? Grampa, you control the
game with your MIND. Duh! Here, stick this on your forehead..."
Progress. Pffft. ;)
Never fear... there's almost no high-def talk today, folks. What
little there is, we'll save for the end of the post.
First up today, our very own Adam Jahnke checks in with
first Bottom Shelf column of 2008, featuring reviews
of a trio of recent Anchor Bay horror titles, including
Ketchum's The Girl Next Door,
Unrated Director's Cut and
of Horror: The V Word. He's got more reviews on the way,
so watch for those in the coming weeks.
In announcement news this afternoon, Warner has set Two
and a Half Men: The Complete Third Season for release on
5/13, followed by the Richie
Rich/Scooby-Doo Hour: Volume One and New
Maverick (Pilot 1) on 5/20, Reza:
Shooting Back on 5/27 (for National Geographic) and The
Anton Chekhov Collection on 6/10 (for the BBC - includes
Wood Demon Play, The Proposal,
The Wedding, The
Seagull, An Artist's Story,
two different versions of Uncle Vanya,
The Three Sisters, and two
versions of The Cherry Orchard).
Meanwhile, Universal has announced the DVD release of The
Bionic Woman (2007): Volume One on 3/18, followed by Reservation
Road on 4/8, and Crossing
Jordan: Season 1 on 5/6. The
Bionic Woman will include some of the series' episodes on
2 discs (SRP $29.98), along with pilot episode commentary with
executive producer David Eick and 4 featurettes (The
Making of the Car Crash, The
and Real Life Bionics). Video
will be anamorphic widescreen.
Here's a look at the cover art for Bionic Woman, along with Sony's
Midnight Express: 30th Anniversary
Edition (2/5) and Dogma
By the way, this news is already a few days old, but some of you
may have missed it. It's
like this that remind us why you can't help but like the guys
over at Ain't it Cool News: It
seems that Pan's Labyrinth
director Guillermo Del Toro is in discussions to helm the two Hobbit
films for New Line, set to be produced by Peter Jackson. How cool is
that? Matt and I were talking a few months ago, back when it seemed
as if Jackson wasn't going to be involved in the films at all, and
we were wondering who could take his place and do a worthy job of
it. The only two names we could come up with were Terry Gilliam and
Guillermo Del Toro. And now here's news that Del Toro is indeed
likely to be the one. As a couple of guys who sat through all twelve
hours of New Line's Trilogy Tuesday
and loved every minute of it so much we were ready to do it again
the moment it ended, this news REALLY warms our hearts. What an
amazing collaboration this is going to be - two more years of great
Christmas movie-going, nearly guaranteed. Nice!
Here Be High-Def Dragons
Okay... here's the only high-def news today: In a bit of bad news
for Toshiba, the company has officially reported a 25% drop in their
quarterly profits, on the basis of falling memory prices and
undisclosed loses related to HD-DVD. You can read more
at Reuters and
at Financial Times. Also today,
News is reporting that Circuit City's clearance tags on
HD-DVD players were a mistake, and that the retailer plans to
continue making the hardware available. So a bit of good news for
That's all for now. Watch for more disc reviews tomorrow. Stay
(LATE UPDATE -
1/29/08 - 12:15 PM PST)
Okay, let's talk new release announcements, shall we?
20th Century Fox and MGM have just set United Artists' Lions
for Lambs for release on DVD on 4/8 (SRP $29.98 -
available in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions).
There's no word of a Blu-ray release yet. The disc will include
audio commentary by director Robert Redford, 3 featurettes (The
Making of Lions for Lambs, Script
to Screen and United Artists
Legacy), and the film's teaser and theatrical trailers.
Also, we may already have mentioned this, but The
Adventures of Baron Munchausen: 20th Anniversary Edition
will street on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 4/8. The DVD (SRP $19.94)
will include audio commentary with director Terry Gilliam and
co-writer/actor Charles McKeown, the 3-part The
Madness and Misadventures of Munchausen documentary,
storyboard sequences (with all-new vocal performances by Terry
Gilliam and Charles McKeown) and deleted scenes. The Blu-ray (SRP
$28.95) will add the Marvelous World of
Munchausen enhanced graphics and trivia track.
Sony has also set Kevin Smith's Dogma
for release on Blu-ray Disc on 3/11 (SRP $28.95). Extras will
include cast and crew commentary, a technical commentary, 100
minutes of deleted scenes with View Askew crew intros, and a Jay and
Bob's Secret Stash commercial.
Also today, we've learned of a problem with Warner and the BBC's
MI-5: Volume 5. It seems that
Disc Three in SOME (but not all) copies is difficult to access, and
if you can, you discover that it has an episode duplicated from Disc
Two of the set. Contact this customer service number
(1-800-553-6937) to arrange a replacement.
That's it for now. Tomorrow we'll have some new disc reviews for
you to enjoy. Stay tuned...
(EARLY UPDATE -
1/29/08 - 12:01 AM PST)
Okay... a quick bit of site business: Our own Russell Hammond has
once again updated the
DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD, Blu-ray and
HD-DVD cover scans and Amazon pre-order links. So for all you cover
art aficionados, and we know there are lots of you out there, enjoy.
Here Be High-Def Dragons
Yep. Sorry standard DVD fans. The rest of this morning's early post
is all format war related. We can't wait for this thing to be over
either, but unfortunately high-def's the news that's happening at
First up today, we've obtained the latest NPD Group hardware sales
numbers from our industry sources. This would be for the week ending
1/19 - the second week after Warner's announcement, and the first
full week reflecting Toshiba's 50% off price reductions. Here's how
the numbers look. Note that we've included the previous week (ending
1/12) as well for comparison, and that these numbers reflect sales
of stand-alone, non-combo units (game system devices like the PS3 or
Xbox add-on drive are not included)...
Here's how the specific unit sales numbers looked for the week
Blu-ray Disc - 16,496 units
HD-DVD - 8,639 units
So it would certainly appear that Toshiba's price cutting has at
least contributed to a modest rebound in the number of HD-DVD units
moved, though sources are telling us that Blu-ray earned
approximately 83% of all the actual dollars spent on high-def
players for the week. Here are those totals...
Blu-ray Disc - $6,033,540
HD-DVD - $1,182,248
Again, that would seem to reflect the fact that Toshiba's prices
had been heavily discounted. The dollar volume percentage is key,
because that's where retailers are going to see profits. As such,
they're obviously making more money on each Blu-ray player sold than
each HD-DVD player sold right now.
FYI, we'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that two
weeks of data points does not equal a trend, just a very small line.
We're sure that all parties involved (including the NPD Group) will
make their own comments shortly.
Meanwhile, after yesterday's photos of Circuit City clearance sales
on HD-DVD players, we've got more pictures this morning along the
same lines. Our friend Dave over at
on DVD sent over these shots of Toshiba HD-A3s he spotted
in the clearance isle at a Wal-Mart store in Memphis.
And here's something interesting - it seems that at the German
Sony is offering consumers 150 Euros off the price of their BDP-S300
Blu-ray player (effectively making the price 349 Euros), with the
trade in of an HD-DVD player. Plus you get 8 free Blu-ray movies.
This ad scan was posted
at HiFi-Forum.de (credit to "heimkino-fan")...
Meanwhile, the media reports on the format war continue to roll in.
has posted their take on things, and those of you who recall
Monty Python's Black Knight may find it amusing. And
to Computerworld Singapore, analyst Hiroyuki Shimizu
had this to say in Gartner's Semiconductor DQ Monday Report:
"Gartner believes that Toshiba's
price-cutting may prolong HD DVD's life a little, but the limited
line-up of film titles will inflict fatal damage on the format.
Gartner expects that, by the end of 2008, Blu-ray will be the
winning format in the consumer market, and the war will be over."
Media have also reported on the Gartner comments today.
Finally this morning,
Review editor Guido Henkel and
File editor Dan Ramer have both added their voices to the
chorus of those calling for Toshiba and the HD-DVD camp to back down
now. The suspense continues.
(LATE UPDATE - 1/28/08
- 12:15 PM PST)
We've got a few new release announcements for you this afternoon...
Fox has now officially revealed the DVD and Blu-ray release of Mr.
Magorium's Wonder Emporium for 3/4, as we've reported
previously. The DVD (SRP $29.98) will be available in both full
frame and anamorphic widescreen editions. Extras will include 4
featurettes (Strangely Weird and Weirdly
Strange: The Magical World of a Wonder Emporium, An
Eccentric Boss and an Awkward Apprentice, To
Meet Eric Applebaum, Start by Saying Hi and The
Magical Toy Store). The Blu-ray version will include all
of the DVD features (SRP $39.98).
Fox and MGM have also announced the DVD release of the Alien
Nation: Ultimate Movie Collection (includes Dark
Horizon, Body and Soul,
Enemy Within and The Udara
Legacy) and a double-feature of Mannequin
and Mannequin 2: On the Move
on 4/15. The Alien Nation set
had previously only been available as a Best Buy exclusive.
Also Sony has announced The Final Season,
starring Sean Astin, for DVD release on 4/8.
Here's a little bit of new cover art: Warner's Robot
Chicken: Star Wars (5/20) and Paramount's The
Animation Show: Volume 3 (5/13) on DVD, as well as Buena
Vista's No Country for Old Men
on Blu-ray (3/11)...
Around the site today, we've kicked off FOUR new
offering each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's
Watch: Season One,
Racial Barriers in the NFL and
Teen Hunger Force: Volume 5, Fox's
Love, and Sony's
The Complete First Season and the
Day: 15th Anniversary Edition. All of these will run until
Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, February 3rd. Click on the links for
instructions on how to enter and good luck!
Finally, round the Net today, Julie Christie, Daniel Day-Lewis and
No Country for Old Men took
the top nods at the SAG
Awards last night. And Christopher Nolan, director of the
upcoming Batman sequel The
Dark Knight, has posted
nice words about Heath Ledger over at Newsweek that we
think are worth a read.
Here Be High-Def Dragons
Good enough? Works for now at least.
So there's more bad news for Toshiba today. To quote a character
from the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where
Art Thou?, the manufacturer has been told to "stay
out of the Woolsworth!" after their HD-DVD format was booted
from the retailer's store locations in the UK. Woolworth announced
today that they only plan to carry the format online from now on,
citing the 10 to 1 sales results of Blu-ray at the retailer's stores
over the holidays. Toshiba quickly responded: While
we're disappointed by Woolworth's decision, it is extremely early to
spot which format will eventually win." You can read
more on this
You know, Toshiba seems defiantly willing to keep this fight going
indefinitely, no matter how bad things get for HD-DVD. One wonders.
however, how their shareholders are going to react to all this. Word
is the company's quarterly earnings are due out in the next couple
days, and given the events of the last few months, they can't be
To get a better sense of how things are going for Toshiba right
now, we suggest you visit your local Best Buy and Circuit City
stores. Your own experiences may vary, but we're getting regular
reports now of low or no HD-DVD player stock at many locations
around the country, and we've now gotten many e-mails from employees
at both chains saying that they've been told that the players aren't
going to be restocked at their stores. Other sites, like
War Central, are reporting this too. And pictures of
HD-DVD player clearance tags in Circuit City stores have appeared
the forums over on Blu-ray.com and at Format
War as well.
Around the Net today, there's still more format war discussion and
commentary to report.
is now offering a dose of realism and advice to their readers
on the subject now that Warner has chosen their allegiance.
New York Times is also reporting on the Warner decision,
with the usual folks commenting in quotes.
is ArsTechnica. And both
are reporting that Sony has now shrunk their Blu-ray laser diode
such that it can now more easily be put into laptops, and is cheaper
and easier to manufacture.
That's it for now. Stay tuned...
(EARLY UPDATE -
1/28/08 - 12:01 AM PST)
Morning, folks! We thought we'd get an early start on things today.
We've got a couple of quick notes for you this morning...
First, we're going to be taking steps to separate or call out
high-def discussion from standard def in this column from now on.
We're trying to figure out the best format to do that. We'll
probably keep release news mixed between both formats (because when
a major new title is streeting on DVD plus high-def, it's just
easier to talk about it all at once), but the main thing we want to
do is signal when we're going to be talking about high-def format
war related issues (news, editorials, etc), so that those of you who
don't care about it can skip it if you like. So at the very least,
we'll do something like we did on Friday, and let you know up front
that a particular post is all high-def format war related. Or, when
we post title announcement news, we'll do that up front and save any
high-def editorial for the end of the column, and let you standard
def fans know when you can stop reading. We recognize that most of
the editorial lately has been high-def related, because frankly
that's just the way the industry is moving these days. But we wanted
to make things a little more standard-def friendly around here at
the same time. Rest assured, good old regular DVD isn't going
anywhere for at least the next 10 or 15 years, in our opinion.
The other thing that we wanted to let you all know today, is that
we've officially stopped accepting advertising from the HD-DVD camp.
Since the format war began, both camps have been free to advertise
on The Bits, within limits of
good taste of course. We even allowed the HD-DVD camp to continue
advertising on The Bits, if
they wanted to do so, after we officially endorsed Blu-ray Disc. But
now that Warner has made their decision to abandon HD-DVD, we've
obviously said we no longer believe that HD-DVD can win the format
war. As such, we've decided that we're no longer comfortable
accepting advertising money from the HD-DVD camp for that format. We
actually made this decision - and informed our ad partners - shortly
after returning from CES, but especially given our
editorial on Friday, we wanted to let all of you know as well.
You may occasionally see ads from a retailer with an HD-DVD logo (we
believe Amazon has lately been running banners promoting sales of
both high-def formats), but as of a couple weeks ago, we are
officially no longer accepting or running specifically HD-DVD
related ads from Toshiba, Microsoft or any member of the HD-DVD
Promotions Group. We just figured this was the right thing to do
going forward, so there you go.
A quick DVD release update - Universal's street date for Battlestar
Galactica: Season Three has been moved up a week from
3/25 to 3/18. Thanks to our friends Dave and Gord over at
Shows on DVD for the heads-up.
And for those of you interested in awards season, by the time you
read this the Screen Actors Guild Awards results should be in.
for all the details.
Okay... now for all you standard-def guys, this last bit of news
this morning is format war business, so we'll see you later in the
For those of you still here, you might be interested to know that
Business posted a a piece on Friday in which it's revealed
that sales of high-def format players (both formats combined) are
currently ahead of the curve of standard DVD's adoption back in the
late 1990s. This is obviously with two formats competing via
aggressive price promotions and HDTV display bundle deals to
encourage sales. Despite this, up until now the competition has also
kept most consumers sitting on the sidelines waiting for a winner.
It will be interesting to see how an end to the format war will
impact the adoption curve of the likely winner, Blu-ray, going
Okay, that's all for now. Back later. Stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE -
1/25/08 - 4:45 PM PST)
FYI, this post is all format war, so if you don't care about such
things, you've been warned.
Still with us? Okay...
So an interesting piece of e-mail found its way to us last night.
It appears that someone at a PR agency representing the HD-DVD
Promotions Group has been sending around this e-mail to select
members of the media this week:
"As you may have seen, there are
attempts being made to portray NPD's weekly sales tracking figures
for next generation DVD as a trend. We want to remind you and make
clear that it is not accurate to make long term assumptions based on
one week of sales - a cautionary point that NPD has made as well.
The facts are that during the week that is being singled out, both
Blu-ray disc players and software were being given away for free
with the purchase of 1080p TVs. It is also important to note that
the instant rebate promotions that had previously netted Toshiba's
players MSRP's to $199 and $249 had actually ended on Jan. 5th
- causing an increase in HD DVD's MSRP back to $299 and $399 during
that same week. Since Toshiba's retail price move on Jan. 13th to
$149 / $199 - Toshiba is seeing very positive sales trends at
retail. This reinforces the fact that price is a significant driver
of sales. Toshiba's HD DVD players represent a significant value to
the consumer and the marketing campaign that just began is proving
effective. If you'd like to discuss this further with Jodi Sally at
Toshiba, please let me know. We hope you'll consider this as you
report on this topic over the coming days and weeks."
It's clear that whoever wrote this is referring to the posts we've
made on The Bits earlier this
We think it would be interesting to take a little trip around the
Net today to look for news reports or posts on this subject over the
last week that reflect the details in this e-mail above almost
verbatim. We're betting there are at least a few.
What we find interesting is this bit right at the start:
"there are attempts being made to
portray NPD's weekly sales tracking figures for next generation DVD
as a trend." Not true. At least not here at The
Digital Bits at any rate. At no time did we portray this
data as a trend. You can go back, read our posts and see for
Why did we post the hardware numbers, you might ask? Simple:
Nielsen VideoScan software sales numbers for HD-DVD had just taken
a hit in the week after the Warner announcement, and it was
reasonable to wonder if the same might have happened to the hardware
numbers. It did. For the record, WE went looking for these numbers
ourselves, to satisfy our own curiosity. Both the HD-DVD Promotions
Group and the NPD Group (in stories
have since cautioned that many factors may have contributed to the
changing numbers, and that's certainly true. It also doesn't take a
rocket scientist to realize that one week of numbers does NOT equal
a trend, nor did we characterize it as such. What we ACTUALLY said
is that we believe the numbers for that week reflect "the
impact of Warner's announcement" on hardware sales, and the
impact of mainstream media coverage of Warner's decision. That's it
- that's the only conclusion we drew.
We think that's a fairly reasonable conclusion to make, when you
consider that BOTH the software and hardware sales numbers for
HD-DVD dropped sharply the week after Warner's announcement,
according to official industry market data. Also contributing our
conclusion was anecdotal evidence (including store visits and
numerous e-mails from retail industry sources at both the corporate
and individual store level) indicating that many retail outlets were
reporting far greater Blu-ray player sales, and much slower HD-DVD
player sales (and even HD-DVD player returns), during the week after
Warner's announcement - a shift that most of these retailers
attributed directly to the Warner news. A few even indicated their
amazement at how quickly the Warner news had spread among their
customers, though when you consider the number of mainstream news
outlets that reported the news, it perhaps shouldn't be surprising.
Beyond this conclusion, we indicated that we'd continue monitoring
and posting the sales data over the next few weeks, so that we can
start to determine whether or not there IS in fact a trend. Here's
what we foresee happening: Obviously the hardware and software
numbers for HD-DVD post Warner dropped. The week after CES, Toshiba
quickly began dramatic price cuts as high as 50% off their HD-DVD
hardware. So we would expect the hardware numbers for HD-DVD to
rebound somewhat. At the same time, however, we've had a number of
retail sources tell us that they're using these sales as a way to
clearance HD-DVD hardware from their stores, and that they're not
likely to restock those players much when they're gone. If that's
true even on a limited basis, what the data could eventually show is
a brief period of stronger sales of HD-DVD players as a result of
the price cuts, and then some kind of eventual decline as they
disappear from store shelves. The other thing it will be interesting
to watch is the Blu-ray Disc hardware sales numbers. Will they stay
steady over the coming weeks? Will they increase? That remains to be
seen. And what about the software sales numbers for both formats?
There, at least, we do have a little more concrete data to report
The Nielsen VideoScan software sales numbers for the week ending
1/20 are now in. This would be the second full week of data after
the Warner announcement. Here's what it looks like...
As you can see, Blu-ray Disc software retained much of its market
share from the previous week, while HD-DVD software managed only a
3% rebound. Obviously, these numbers are largely affected by the
number and quality of the titles released on each format from week
to week, and it's fair to say that not much of significance was
released in either format during the week ending 1/20, so these
numbers almost entirely reflect continuing sales of the previous
week's titles. Again, two weeks of sales under 20% doesn't
necessarily represent a trend for HD-DVD. On the other hand, it
certainly isn't good news for the format either. Especially if it's
true that at least a portion of electronics retailers are planning
to phase out their stock of HD-DVD players and discs in the weeks
and months ahead.
The reality is, despite cautionary statements here and there, the
home video and electronics industries are ready for this format war
to be over. That's the overwhelming sense we're getting from our
many industry contacts, and the outward signs of this sentiment are
starting to appear everywhere. Just go to your favorite local
electronics or video store and ask their employees which format they
recommend, which is selling better and which they think will win.
Visit Amazon.com, which has now started warning its customers about
Warner's plans to drop HD-DVD with
notice on the order page for the studio's HD-DVD titles. Read
the statements of various retail and studio representatives in
mainstream media reports... not to mention the editorial opinions of
those same mainstream media outlets.
The other thing we've found interesting is the reaction to recent
format war developments by key members of the home video industry
media. As long as we've been reporting on DVD and high-definition
here at The Bits (for the last
decade now), we've known two key print journalists that have covered
DVD and the home video industry at least as long as we have - T.K.
Arnold and Scott Hettrick. Arnold is currently the publisher and
editorial director of Home
Media Retailing, and is also a regular contributor to
Hollywood Reporter. For years, Hettrick was the home
entertainment editor for Daily
Variety, and served as editor-in-chief of
Business. To get a pretty fair reading on which way the
wind is blowing in this industry, you need only read their thoughts
on the format war of late. So what do they have to say? Well...
among other things, Scott Hettrick is now the editorial director for
in Hi-Def.com, which is both sponsored by and dedicated to
coverage of the Blu-ray Disc format. Anyone who has read that site
in recent months will know that Hettrick's position in this format
war is clear. Meanwhile, Arnold has just posted a pair of strong
editorials calling for an end to the high-def format war. The first
was published at Home Media
last week -
Plea for a Unified, Blu Future. The second -
DVD Backers Should Call It A Day - appears in next
week's issue (you'll find the
version here - the piece is on page 7), and it's even more
direct that the first. To quote Arnold in this latest column:
"Toshiba and Microsoft, by stubbornly
continuing to back HD DVD at a point where it is clear that the
format cannot longer win, are threatening to derail the entire home
entertainment packaged-media business - Hollywood's primary cash
cow, and as such, a vital bloodline to the creation of new movies."
He goes on to say...
"Toshiba needs to swallow its pride and
do the right thing for our industry - and, in the long term if not
the short term, its own corporate shareholders."
While we respectfully acknowledge those of differing opinions,
particularly a select few of our peers in the online enthusiast
media, it should go without saying that we agree with Arnold's
argument and his overall sentiment.
Way back in 2004 and 2005, before these formats were launched, The
Digital Bits was strongly urging the industry to resolve
its differences and unite behind a single high-definition format,
knowing that a format war would get ugly and divide not only the
industry as a whole, but also enthusiasts. That, of course, did not
happen. Based upon the technical specs, as well as the various
companies and studios backing each format, we said in early 2006
that Blu-ray Disc seemed to have the advantage on paper, but much
would depend on the actual launch of each format. In April 2006, the
first HD-DVD players were delivered to retail here in the States,
with Blu-ray following in June. As we acknowledged then, both
formats were a user's mess upon arrival, but both quickly made
strides in working out their respective bugs. HD-DVD made sales
gains as the year progressed, but we believed that the real
competition would begin in the 4th quarter of 2006, when the Blu-ray
format began to deliver a fuller complement of hardware (including
the PlayStation 3) and software from its many supporting companies.
By January of 2007, Blu-ray Disc software began outselling HD-DVD
software on a week to week basis, and Blu-ray Disc hardware held its
own in sales numbers in spite of a $200 or more cost premium over
HD-DVD hardware. The Bits
continued to remain neutral, but throughout the first half of 2007,
we watched as various predictions made by the HD-DVD camp failed to
materialize: Low priced players would win the format war for HD,
porn would win the format war for HD, cheap Chinese players were the
answer for HD, combo players and discs would be the deciding factor,
etc. All have fallen by the wayside. Finally, by mid-2007, it became
clear to us at The Bits that
it was extremely unlikely that HD-DVD could ever actually win the
format war - the best they could hope for was to stay in the game.
We heard continued exclamations of "Let the consumer decide!"
But the simple fact was, most consumers were deciding to sit on the
sidelines, afraid of purchasing the losing format. And of those few
consumers who WERE actually buying high-def players and discs - the
early adopters - most of them weren't deciding either! They were
buying both. The result was an on-going stalemate, which we believed
then as now is bad for this industry - the home video equivalent of
endless trench warfare. And in the actual trenches - the many home
theater discussion groups online - things were getting very, very
ugly, just as we predicted. Enthusiasts were bitterly attacking one
another with sad regularity, and paid PR representatives for both
high-def camps were using enthusiasts to wage nasty spin and
disinformation campaigns. Enough was enough.
So in June of 2007, we decided it was time for The
Bits to get off the fence. We looked at all the data, all
the sales history and all the predictions for the coming months, and
decided to support Blu-ray Disc. This was no reflection upon the
video and audio quality delivered to enthusiasts by HD-DVD, which we
have long acknowledged is equal to that of Blu-ray. However, Blu-ray
had greater data storage capacity, greater software sales and strong
stand-alone hardware sales in spite of cost premiums, as well as
strong support via PlayStation 3 sales (which despite its initial
high cost as a game platform only, is a significant value for those
who want both a high-def player AND a gaming device - and it's also
future proof thanks to its ability to be firmware updated all the
way to BD profile 2.0). We believed that BD-Java, as an actual
programming language, might take longer to fully reach its potential
but was more robust in the long term that HDi, which is basically a
browser extension. We believed the fact that the vast majority of CE
manufacturers were backing Blu-ray over HD-DVD gave it a strong
market advantage and a better business model, where as Toshiba
remained the only major manufacturer supporting HD-DVD and was
having to drastically discount its hardware to move significant
numbers - a tactic that would only serve as a disincentive to other
CE manufacturers from joining them. Blu-ray already had the edge in
many markets around the world (Japan, Australia, etc), and we
believed that its built-in support as video recording and data
storage format would eventually make it popular with independent
filmmakers and the CE industry. And even back in June of last year,
Blu-ray had a clear advantage in Hollywood studio support over
HD-DVD, much of it exclusive. We believed then that backing Blu-ray
was the right decision, both for us and for our readers. Our advice
to them was simple: Either stay on the sidelines (the recommended
option) or, if you were going to risk getting into high-def, Blu-ray
seemed to us the better option. That continues to be our advice.
We've received some criticism in certain quarters online for our
move, but the response of the overwhelming majority of our readers -
especially those who have followed our advice - has been positive,
as has the response of our many friends and contacts within the home
video industry itself. Since then, our belief that we made the right
choice has only grown. While Paramount and DreamWorks abandoned
Blu-ray in August, their decision has had little effect on the
overall software sales numbers - Blu-ray software continued outsell
HD-DVD for the ENTIRE year of 2007. Blu-ray hardware prices have
grown more affordable, and stand-alone sales for Blu-ray have
increased accordingly. The PlayStation 3 has sold better in recent
months, and significant evidence supports the fact that many PS3
owners are watching and buying Blu-ray movies. More recently,
Blu-ray hardware and software outsold HD-DVD during the critical
holiday shopping season. Now Warner has announced its plans to
abandon HD-DVD in May, giving Blu-ray the exclusive support of 75%
of the Hollywood studios. Accordingly, we believe that both consumer
spending and retailer support decisions are likely to reflect a
continued and growing preference for Blu-ray in the months ahead,
and we'll be watching the situation closely to see if this comes to
In any case, it seems abundantly clear to us at The
Digital Bits that while the format war isn't technically
over yet, the writing is on the wall. HD-DVD is now even more
unlikely to win than it was in June of 2007. Given that, the
continuation of the format war serves no one's best interests, aside
perhaps from the short term interests of Toshiba and others in the
HD-DVD camp. As such, we echo T.K. Arnold's call for Toshiba and
Microsoft, as well as Paramount and Universal, to end this format
war once and for all. The Hollywood studios and retailers simply
cannot afford to let another year's worth of mixed messages about
high-def packaged media be sent to consumers.
Meanwhile, in the online enthusiast community, things have actually
gotten so absurd in the last couple of weeks that there are now
dueling petitions to alternately
HD-DVD (complete with thousands of signatures real and fake, genuine
and mocking), and one discussion forum
hosted a thread in which its members were casting the actors
who might star in a hypothetical Format
War: The Movie (predictably, what started in good humor
quickly became contentious and the thread was locked, like so many
others before it).
Bottom line: Ending this format war now is the right thing to do
for this industry and for consumers overall. It's time to stop all
the bitterness and the hostility, both real world and virtual, and
it's time to put this unnecessary and damaging dispute behind us.
It's just time.
And with that, we wish you all a lovely weekend, whichever side of
this thing you may be on. Stay tuned...
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