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Lions Gate Ready Soon to Make Its High-Def Choice

4 Aug, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

As the only major player still on the fence in the brewing next-generation format war between Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, Lions Gate Entertainment is reportedly being wooed by each camp — and is, in fact, poised to take the plunge.

Lions Gate president Steve Beeks said a decision on which high-definition optical disc platform to support could come within the next month. The buzz is that the studio, with a 5 percent share of the DVD market, will likely align with Blu-ray, following Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, with which it has a distribution relationship to pick, package and ship product to retailers nationwide.

But Beeks says no decision has yet been reached.

“We've always said, from the beginning, that there are two primary factors — manufacturing costs and manufacturability to go along with that — and copy protection,” he said. “The reason we chose not to choose a format early on is that we felt there was not enough information in the marketplace to back up any of the arguments on either side. And we felt the prudent thing for us to do would be to wait and see how technology advanced.”

But lately, Beeks said, “a lot of technological advances have been announced, and we're seeing a lot of movement in the copy-protection arena.” As a result, he said, it's becoming clearer to see how the rival formats stack up against each and make a decision “to declare for either format, or for both.”

“Frankly,” he said, “we could go either way.”

With the announcement last Friday by Fox that it would support the Sony-developed Blu-ray platform, the six major studios are now evenly split between the two camps. Joining Fox on the Blu-ray side are Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (with MGM) and Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Toshiba's HD DVD, meanwhile, counts as its major-studio supporters Paramount Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video (with New Line and HBO).

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