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Studios Unveil Slates for Blu-ray Disc

4 Jan, 2006 By: Thomas A., Kurt I.


Sony's Hitch


Four studios today announced slates of titles to be ready for the soon-to-be-launched Blu-ray Disc high-definition format.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Lionsgate, each of which have lent their support exclusively to Blu-ray, announced their plans a day before supporters of the next-generation, high-definition optical disc format stage a formal unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, which has said it would support both Blu-ray and format competitor HD DVD with disc releases, also unveiled titles it will have ready for both formats at launch.

More studios are expected to announce their high-definition launch slates this week.

Sony and Fox each have earmarked 20 titles, while Lionsgate and Paramount have each lined up 10 for release on the Sony-developed format, timed to coincide with the debut of Blu-ray hardware in North America, Japan and Europe sometime early in 2006.

Sony's initial offering is led by such high-profile theatrical films as Hitch, The Fifth Element, Legends of the Fall and House of Flying Daggers.

Fox's first wave includes major releases Fantastic Four, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Behind Enemy Lines, Kiss of the Dragon and Ice Age, among others.

Lionsgate's lineup includes Lord of War, The Punisher, The Devil's Rejects and Saw.

Paramount's launch slate will have recent releases such as Four Brothers, Sahara, Aeon Flux and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

SPHE president Benjamin Feingold said he and his executives will meet with consumer electronics manufacturers at the CES to pin down more specific dates for Blu-ray's launch.

"Our objective is to provide a real show of support from the software side," Feingold said. "With the announcement of these first 20 titles, the age of Blu-ray has truly arrived. BD delivers the most advanced high-definition experience available to entertainment enthusiasts today, while offering filmmakers a limitless canvas to express their artistic vision."

Mike Dunn, president worldwide for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, said that Fox plans simultaneous releases of its films on Blu-ray and DVD as the format takes hold with consumers and deepens its household penetration.

“The release of our films on Blu-ray will provide consumers with in-home entertainment beyond anything they have imagined,” Dunn said.

Lionsgate's upcoming May theatrical horror release See No Evil, featuring WWE wrestler Kane, will be the company's first title released simultaneously on DVD and Blu-ray, said Lionsgate president Steve Beeks. Beeks noted that Blu-ray's advantages extend beyond higher quality picture and sound. The format's expanded storage capacity will enable studios to offer increased menu navigation and other enhanced interactive capabilities “that will make the movie-watching experience at home unparalleled,” he said.

Sony said its initial slate will be released on single-layer, 25GB Blu-ray Disc with the exception of Black Hawk Down and The Bridge on the River Kwai, both of which will be issued on 50GB dual-layer discs in the summer of 2006.

Other films slated for Blu-ray release from Sony include Bram Stoker's Dracula, Desperado, For a Few Dollars More, The Guns of Navarone, A Knight's Tale, Kung Fu Hustle, The Last Waltz, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Robocop, Sense and Sensibility, Stealth, Species, S.W.A.T. and XXX.

Lionsgate will include catalog hits Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Reservoir Dogs, Total Recall, Dune and Rambo: First Blood to its initial Blu-ray lineup.

Thomas Lesinksi, president, Paramount Pictures, Worldwide Home Entertainment, said the company will launch its titles under the banner “Paramount High Definition” and will include, in 2006, Mission Impossible III alongside the first two “Mission Impossible” films.

Paramount's other Blu-ray/HD DVD titles at launch will include The Italian Job, Tomb Raider, U2: Rattle and Hum, Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, We Were Soldiers, and 2004's The Manchurian Candidate.

The announcements are seen by observers as a pre-emptive strike against rival HD DVD, which, shortly after the Blu-ray Disc presentation was set for Jan. 5, announced a CES presentation of its own the night before.

Both formats are vying to become the successor to DVD, which is not high-definition. Some industry analysts say Blu-ray currently enjoys the advantage, with software support from five of the six major studios, as well as Lions Gate Home Entertainment. HD DVD, developed by Toshiba, has three studios lined up.

At last year's CES, the three studios that support HD DVD — Paramount Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video — announced an ambitious slate of titles timed to hit stores in the fourth quarter, when the first hardware units were slated to arrive.By late summer, however, all three had pulled back, saying they would wait until 2006 to release movies and other programming. This, in turn, prompted Toshiba and other consumer electronics firms to delay the introduction of HD DVD players, as well.


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