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All Six Majors Now in Blu-ray Camp

21 Feb, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's official: All six major Hollywood studios are now in the Blu-ray Disc camp, now that Toshiba has pulled the plug on HD DVD and Blu-ray is effectively the only next-gen game in town.

Paramount Home Entertainment quietly came onboard via a statement sent exclusively to Home Media Magazine on Wednesday: “We are pleased that the industry is moving to a single high-definition format, as we believe it is in the best interest of the consumer,” the statement read. “As we look to [begin] releasing our titles on Blu-ray, we will monitor consumer adoption and determine our release plans accordingly.”

No further details were given.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment, in contrast, cast its lot with Blu-ray within hours of the Toshiba announcement Tuesday morning that it was ending the format war by ceasing the development, manufacture and marketing of HD DVD players by the end of March. Universal made a big splash with its announcement, sending media outlets a statement from division president Craig Kornblau in which he stated, “While Universal values the close partnership we have shared with Toshiba, it is time to turn our focus to releasing new and catalog titles on Blu-ray.”

Janet Murray, director of Georgia Tech's masters and Ph.D. program in digital media, said a single format supported by all six major studios has a lot better chance of success than two rival ones, each with only a chunk of Hollywood.

“It's a big victory for the consumer,” Murray said. Now that the studios are no longer battling each other over which format is best, she said, they can focus on generating awareness among consumers of the many benefits of high-definition media. Murray predicts “a standardization of extras” now that everyone's releasing films on a single format rather than two, each with its own set of capabilities. “This will lead to a much richer experience for viewers,” she added.

Murray also foresees “much more content, and much more breadth of content,” now that Blu-ray is the only way to go. “When people have these higher-end screens at home, they take great pleasure in them, and this will push ahead the delivery [of movies] in high-definition,” she said.

Ironically, Universal Studios had been exclusive with HD DVD since the format's launch in April 2006, while Paramount had initially supported both HD DVD and Blu-ray. Only last August did Paramount and DreamWorks switch to HD DVD-only, reportedly after receiving a $150 million payment from the format's supporters for “promotional consideration.”

Neither studio has announced specific titles earmarked for early Blu-ray release, although both are expected to start with new theatricals coming the same day as the standard DVD, beginning in late spring or early summer.

All six major studios are now committed to Blu-ray. The four others are Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (along with its distributed MGM Home Entertainment label), Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video (including distributed labels New Line Home Entertainment, BBC Video and HBO Video). Mini-major Lionsgate also has been a Blu-ray-only backer since the start.

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