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Blu-ray Preps Aggressive Release Strategy

27 Feb, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Seeking to regain some of the Blu-ray Disc's lost momentum, two of the next-generation optical disc format's key studio backers Feb. 27 announced firm launch dates for their first BD titles and indicated both software and hardware could be in stores by May.

The Blu-ray Disc Association's failure to finalize the Blu-ray drive's specs could delay the PlayStation 3's launch from the spring until the fall or even later, an unnamed spokesman for Sony's Japanese game division told the Kyodo News service.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Lionsgate both say they will begin rolling out Blu-ray titles May 23, the same day the first BD player, from Samsung Electronics, will be in stores.

Sony will deliver eight Blu-ray Disc titles May 23 and eight more June 13. According to the studio, the arrival in stores of the Samsung player “will be followed shortly by BD players from Pioneer and Sony, along with a BD-compatible VAIO PC from Sony.”

Benjamin Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and one of the key industry spokespersons for Blu-ray Disc, would not comment on the purported PS3 delay.

“We just think it's great to be bringing titles out onto the market at this early stage,” he said. “We hope to get the kinks out of the supply chain on the hardware and software ends before PS3 hits the market.”

The first eight Blu-ray Disc titles to hit the market from Sony are 50 First Dates, The Fifth Element, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, A Knight's Tale, The Last Waltz (an MGM title), Resident Evil: Apocalypse and XXX.

These will be followed June 13 by Kung Fu Hustle, Legends of the Fall, Robocop (MGM), Stealth, Species (MGM), S.W.A.T. and The Terminator (MGM).

As previously announced, these catalog titles will wholesale for $17.95 each.

Lionsgate will release 10 Blu-ray Disc titles, also beginning May 23, “to coincide with the first commercially offered BD players in stores,” according to a press release.

The first five titles, out that day, are Crash and Lord of War, both at $39.99, along with The Punisher, Saw and Terminator 2: Judgment Day at $29.99.

Lionsgate's second wave will be released in either June or July and include Reservoir Dogs, Total Recall, Stargate and Frank Herbert's Dune, all at $29.99 each, as well as The Devil's Rejects at $39.99.

Liongate president Steve Beeks said his prime concern is to have product in the market when the first dedicated BD players arrive in stores, regardless of when PlayStation 3 comes out. He believes the game console will lead to “incremental sales,” but wants to be there with software when the first wave of aficionados pick up their BD players.

“Our support for the Blu-ray format is not tied to any specific launch date or any specific hardware platform,” he said. “Over the long haul, we believe Blu-ray will be the technology of choice for consumers.”

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