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Disney Pushes Blu-ray Bar

17 Jul, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Delivering on its promise of cutting-edge special features for Blu-ray Discs, Buena Vista Home Entertainment will include a series of exclusive shorts, filmed in high-definition, on select movies the studio will release in the format.

The studio is expected to announce July 17 its first nine titles in the next-generation, optical-disc format, coming in two waves, beginning Sept. 19. Five of them — Walt Disney Pictures' Dinosaur, Eight Below, Glory Road and The Haunted Mansion, along with Touchstone Pictures' Gone in 60 Seconds — will come with exclusive “Blu-Scape” shorts inspired by the films, presented in 1080p and shot by renowned cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg.

Schwartzberg has a long line of credits in both television and film. His company, BlackLight Films, has worked on such major theatrical features as Syriana, War of the Worlds, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Crash and American Beauty. Television credits include “Alias,” “CSI: NY” and Showtime's “Masters of Horror.” Schwartzberg also directed the 2004 Walt Disney Pictures feature America's Heart and Soul.

“The Blu-ray Disc represents a major technological breakthrough in our industry,” said Bob Chapek, president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. “Just as DVD revolutionized home entertainment, the Blu-ray Disc promises to deliver a new and unparalleled consumer experience. The possibilities are endless, and we've just begun to bridge the future of this exciting new paradigm.”

Dinosaur and Eight Below are both slated for Sept. 19 release, along with Miramax Films' Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and The Great Raid.The second wave of titles, due Oct. 17, includes Glory Road, The Haunted Mansion and Gone in 60 Seconds as well as Touchstone's Dark Water and Dimension Films' The Brothers Grimm.

Most Buena Vista Blu-ray titles will list for $34.99.

At launch, Buena Vista's Blu-ray titles will feature advanced new menus, with seamless navigation and settings, that can be accessed while the movie is playing. They'll also come with new layer-coating technology that provides a scratch-resistant surface.

Still being developed: more groundbreaking interactive features; personalized chapter selections; and compelling online content, including Web connectivity, that will allow users to connect to live events hosted by the studio.

“These are incredibly exciting times, since we are in an era where the consumer has growing control over the delivery of their entertainment choices, including packaged media,” Chapek said. “We are confident that the Blu-ray Disc will be the high-definition choice for the home entertainment future.”

Buena Vista's expected announcement will make it the fourth studio to announce titles and release dates for Blu-ray, tipping the scale in favor of the Sony-developed format. Warner Home Video weighed in last week with four titles (see story, page 14), while Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Lionsgate have both been releasing product since late June.

Rival HD DVD, from Toshiba, only has three studios releasing product: Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Paramount Home Entertainment and Warner.

Paramount and 20th Century Fox are expected to announce their inaugural Blu-ray Disc lineups shortly.

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