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High-Def Titles Battle It Out

31 May, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It was the battle of the high-def disc titans, and the pirates won.

In the first of what observers expect will be many high-profile title showdowns, Buena Vista Home Entertainment on May 22 released the first two “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies on Blu-ray Disc, just before the third installment in the blockbuster franchise opened on the big screen.

The same day, Warner Home Video released two “Matrix” collections on the rival HD DVD format.

Within a week, consumers had spent more than $2 million on those releases alone, according to Home Media Magazine market research estimates. The two “Pirates” films sold a combined total of nearly 47,000 units, while the higher-priced “Matrix” sets sold about 13,900 units.

In dollars, there was much more parity, since the single-disc “Pirates” releases fetched about $25 in stores, while the “Matrix” sets, each with all three movies in the franchise, were priced significantly higher. The five-disc “The Ultimate Matrix Collection” lists for $119.99, with an Amazon.com price of $73.95, while “The Complete Matrix Trilogy” (three discs) goes for $99.99 (Amazon, $63.95).

Bob Chapek, worldwide president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment, calls the “Pirates” sales tally a “strong and significant trend toward consumer preference for the Blu-ray Disc format.”

“We are thrilled by the critical and industry response to ‘Pirates' on Blu–ray Disc,” Chapek said. “But more importantly, the consumer has spoken loud and clear. This is only the beginning, but it was certainly a significant and explosive indicator of things to come.”

Both high-def formats are gaining traction, amid growing Hollywood sentiment that the format war isn't necessarily a bad thing. Observers question whether hardware prices would have dropped as dramatically as they have if only one format was on the market.

Warner Home Video last week announced sales of The Departed, which was released the same day as the DVD on both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, have surpassed 100,000 units sold in the two formats combined.

In March, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment announced it had shipped 100,000 Blu-ray Disc copies of another new theatrical, Casino Royale, which as of the end of April had sold 74,280 units.

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