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Hollywood Uses CES To Spotlight HD Disc Releases

As manufacturers rolled out their new HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc players at International CES, Hollywood studios also made a series of title announcements during launch events for each system.

Promotions groups for the battling camps staged launch parties at the show, where software announcements were a critical end to the various hardware presentations.

The Blu-ray Disc camp, which went into the show with the largest stable of supporting software supporters, presented representatives of six studios that have announced plans for over 100 movie and music titles to support player shipments during the year.

Andy Parsons, a spokesman for the Blu-ray Disc Association, led off a Blu-ray launch party by announcing “the Blu-ray Disc specifications have now been completed.”

“Due to the unparalleled support of Blu-ray Disc, we will be able to offer movies, music and games as well as an unmatched array of products that will provide consumers with a dramatic new home entertainment experience,” said Victor Matsuda, global chairman, Blu-ray Disc Association promotions committee. “With Blu-ray Disc, the bar has now been raised for the home viewing experience.”

Kaz Hirai, president of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said that because the forthcoming PlayStation 3 gaming system will support Blu-ray Disc software “right out of the box,” it will help drive the format to success, just as PlayStation 2 contributed to the success of the DVD market.

“We proved that PlayStation 2 products not only can drive the hardware market but the software market within the gaming space and beyond. We plan to do the same with our next-generation platform — PlayStation 3,” he said.

Meanwhile, the HD DVD camp also made several new announcements that helped to re-gain some lost ground.

Yoshiihide Fujii, HD DVD Promotions Group chairman, said Studio Canal and the Weinstein Company — a new studio formed by brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who previously ran Miramax Studio — have agreed to release titles in the HD DVD format.

The announcements helped the format gain back some lost ground in the battle for content support after HD DVD backers Warner Bros. and Paramount announced plans late last year to also support Blu-ray Disc.

Studios will begin releasing a handful of HD DVD titles in March to support the hardware launch. That will gradually ramp up to about 50 titles by May, growing to nearly 200 titles by the holiday selling season, HD DVD Promotions Group members announced.

Releases will start out primarily with legacy titles, adding some new releases several weeks down the line. Titles will feature a mixture of stand-alone HD DVD discs and hybrid HD DVD/standard-definition DVD discs. Studio representatives said hybrid discs will sell for several dollars more than HD DVD-only titles.

The format will support a number of key new interactive features that expand upon the abilities of current DVDs. These include the ability to call up picture-in-picture overlays of running video commentaries while a movie is playing, and download through the players various extra content, including multiple video trailers from studio Web sites.

In addition, HD DVD promoters announced that Microsoft will support HD DVD with an external drive for its just launched Xbox 360 video game console.