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Aug 21, 2007

FORGET THE WAR IN IRAQ, THE REAL BATTLE IS THE HIGH DEFINITION DVD WAR



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So if you haven’t read it elsewhere already – and I’m sure you have –Paramount/Dreamworks have pulled a fast one. After being a duel High Definition DVD format studio for months, they announced yesterday that they are going to be releasing their titles exclusively in HD DVD. The studio claims that it is because of the more “affordable nature” of the HD players (which currently run in the $300 range) and Jeffrey Katzenberg has been quoted as saying that HD DVD has been priced more family friendly, making it the ideal format choice especially for Dreamworks animation. But as one of their big summer releases reminds us, there is more to this than meets the eye. It ends up that Microsoft has handed the studio $150 million in cash and incentives and in return the studio pledges their allegiance to the HD DVD format. Who can blame them for jumping on that deal? They are about to be handed $150 million, that’s not chump change, and for HD DVD, a format that was indeed dying (it seemed as though even Universal was starting to buckle under the pressure for supporting it so passionately) it gets a new lease on life going into the 4th quarter which thanks to Christmas as well as the release of all the big summer blockbusters, is THE key time of year in terms of sales. HD also gets a big exclusive release in the form of SHREK THE THIRD, likely to be a huge seller, and it will not be available on Blu-Ray. The same goes for TRANSFORMERS (Michael Bay however has openly blasted Paramount for the move, and said so in an open statement on his web page). Some titles are exempt, like say any title directed by Steven Spielberg (meaning INDIANA JONES IV which is a Paramount title will be released in both formats. That is of course if this whole thing hasn’t been resolved by then). However, several titles that were announced and slotted for release and have been in active production have now been cancelled on the Blu-Ray format including BLADES OF GLORY, TOP GUN, NEXT and FACE/OFF (BLADES OF GLORY is out next week). They will still be available on HD DVD and standard DVD.

Many sources are wondering why Microsoft is putting up so much cash into a format they really don’t (or should I now say didn’t) have a lot invested in. There are murmurings that they are fueling the format war so that both High Def formats will crap out, giving them the proper opening to swoop in with exclusive High Def movie downloads. Either way, they have succeeded in fueling the war which probably would have been dead probably by mid next year as it was looking as though going into quarter four, consumers were facing Blu-Ray as the obvious choice and now the choice isn’t so obvious.

So for me, that means I have cancelled all my pending Blu-Ray pre-orders, and have switched them to standard def DVD. I still believe in Blu-Ray, but I don’t want to get stuck with discs on a dead format (I already went through the Laserdisc debacle) and I don’t like waiting especially for big releases like the BLADE RUNNER box set or any of the big summer titles. I am also curious why Warner’s plans for a Total HD format (due mid next year) which has both formats on one disc, nor LG’s dual format player have been brought up in any of this mess? I still think people want one choice, and one choice only, and splitting things up just confuses everyone involved. So for now, the High Def DVD war rages on, and I will stand on the sidelines watching intently, while still purchasing standard def discs because when all is said and done, all that matters is the material housed on the discs meaning the films themselves.