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High-def Gets Hollywood Support

17 May, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Buena Vista Home Entertainment's big shindig at The Highlands to celebrate the Blu-ray Disc launch of the first two “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies wasn't just another glitzy Hollywood party. It was a massive show of studio support for the high-definition format, vying with rival format HD DVD to become DVD's successor.

The Disney contingent was out in force, from worldwide home entertainment president Bob Chapek on down. Plenty of other executives were there from the two other Blu-ray exclusive studios, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. One uttered a most telling comment to me: “This is our moment. It's our time.”

Indeed, Disney is hoping the twin “Pirates” release on May 22 will be the watershed moment when Blu-ray ceases to be a novelty and becomes a viable business. The two discs are packed with novel special features, and the entire Disney team is so hyped on the release that film producer Jerry Bruckheimer himself came out for the event.

If there's any rain on this parade, it's coming from Warner Home Video, which nabbed May 22 as the release date for the “Matrix” trilogy on HD DVD. Though one of two studios supporting both next-gen formats, Warner's heart has long been rumored to lie in the HD DVD camp, which is, after all, an outgrowth of the standard DVD platform developed in large part by its former president, Warren Lieberfarb.

Seizing the moment, the HD DVD Promotional Group a day after the Disney bash announced an ambitious marketing campaign, from showing HD DVD trailers in theaters to offering a rebate on Toshiba HD DVD players that cuts the price of the machine to $299. The entire campaign is pegged to the “Matrix” HD DVD release, which format backers see as significant a release as “Pirates.”

So in essence, the much-ballyhooed high-definition format war is being boiled down to a software battle between a pair of pirates and a trilogy of science-fiction films. The ultimate winner is irrelevant. What matters is that both high-def disc formats finally are getting the push from Hollywood they need for the high-def disc concept to succeed.

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