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UMD Movies Set Records, Gain Studio Support

23 May, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Two movie titles for Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) have sold more than 100,000 copies each, a milestone reached less than two months after the handheld game machine went on sale in the United States March 24.

Both are Sony titles that came out April 19: House of Flying Daggers and Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president Benjamin Feingold called the sales tally “remarkable,” noting that it took nine months for the first DVD title, Air Force One, to cross the 100,000-unit mark.

The news comes as two more Hollywood studios — Paramount and MGM — announced they will release movies and other programming on the PSP's proprietary Universal Media Disc (UMD).

Paramount this week is announcing 11 titles, including the hit Sahara, arriving Aug. 30, the same day as the DVD. Paramount titles also draw heavily from fellow Viacom divisions Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and MTV, making Paramount the first studio to bring lucrative TV shows to UMD. The first wave of titles, due Aug. 9, consists of Team America: World Police, Coach Carter and Without a Paddle. Wave two, arriving in stores Aug. 30, includes Sahara, The Italian Job and, from MTV, Viva La Bam: Volume 1. Other titles due later in the year include The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and compilations of “Chappelle's Show,” “Ren and Stimpy,” “South Park” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” episodes.

“Viacom is distinctly positioned to provide a wide variety of content for this new portable multimedia platform, given our unique assets, which reach the key demographics for PSP,” said Thomas J. Lesinski, president of worldwide home entertainment for Paramount Pictures.

MGM, now partially owned by Sony, also this week is announcing its first four UMD titles — Beauty Shop, Be Cool, Stargate: Atlantis and Bulletproof Monk — due Sept. 13.

The addition of Paramount and MGM puts all the major studios in the UMD camp except Warner Bros., which is still struggling with its Mini-DVD. Also vowing to release UMD movies and other programming are mini-major Lions Gate Entertainment and independents Image Entertainment, Geneon Entertainment and Eagle Rock.

More than 70 movie titles for PSP have either already been announced or are in the pipeline for release through the end of this year.

“In terms of software support on the movie side, it's the fastest of any format, even more than DVD,” Feingold said. “It's a testament to the growth and sophistication of the studios in looking for an additional revenue stream.” Feingold said releasing movies for the PSP also helps the studios establish “a beachhead in the portable, mobile market.”

Blake Thomas, MGM's EVP of home entertainment distribution, agreed. “Our commitment at MGM has always been to try to get our movies where consumers want them, and the PSP really is a next step, technologically,” he said. “It's a transformational technology, and we want to make sure we are in the forefront.”

Thomas said MGM will announce a second slate of UMD movies next month, with additional waves to follow.

Meanwhile, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, one of the first studios to supply movies for the PSP, has just announced four more titles bound for UMD Aug. 16 — Sin City, Shaolin Soccer, The Rock and Coyote Ugly: Unrated Extended Cut.

On the hardware end, more than 1.2 million PSP units have sold through to U.S. consumers, according to industry sources. Sony said 602,000 PSPs were sold in the first week. Analysts project that while UMD will never be as ubiquitous as DVD, the market ultimately could grow to 25 million or even 30 million households. Sony's Feingold projects that within 12 months, between 6 million and 8 million PSP machines will be in North American households.

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