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Departed Promise of High-Definition Discs

5 Jun, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Warner Home Video last week heralded its sale of more than 100,000 high-definition copies of Oscar-winner The Departed — the first studio to do so.

The tally, which included Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD that Warner shrewdly co-distributes, appeared to laud, at best, baby steps.

Remember when Buena Vista's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest sold 10.5 million DVDs its first week in stores? Since when did we settle for championing an individual title's total unit sales exceeding 100K?

Specifically, slightly more than 58,000 Blu-ray units and 35,000 HD DVD units of The Departed were sold at the end of April, according to Home Media Magazine's market research department.

These are unit totals typically reserved for third-edition DVD re-releases, direct-to-video and niche fare — not major studio movies.

The Departed's $3.4 million revenue didn't match individual weekly revenue totals for any of the top 12 DVD rental releases for the week ended May 13, according to Home Media Research.

And Departed DVD sales undoubtedly exceeded high-def sales exponentially, or that would have really been (bad) news.

Yet, the studios continue to churn out the high-def hype regardless that the format war is stifling both adoption and sales among the general consumer — the lifeblood of packaged media.

Wal-Mart, which reportedly accounts for 40% of all DVD sales, is still trying to comprehend high-def discs. Try finding more than a title or two and a sales clerk at a local Wal-Mart who even knows the existence of two formats.

Until then, I take with a big dose of skepticism Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders' explanation that Blu-ray and HD DVD represent the industry's “best hope” for near-term growth.

Because if that's true, it's time to get off the HD Titanic.

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