Okay... first things first today. Disney has issued a pre-CES press release with details of a few of the Blu-ray titles they're planing to release around the world in early 2008. Here's the text (we've highlighted the individual titles):

WDSHE Expands Blu-ray Line-Up with First Platinum Blu-ray Release, BD-Live and Full Motion Picture-in-Picture

Also Announces the Extension of Disney's Magical Blu-ray Tour

Burbank, CA, January 4, 2008 - Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (WDSHE) announces an exciting new line-up of Blu-ray initiatives in 2008, an ever-expanding Blu-ray slate and new technological-advancements in bonus feature materials, all which guarantee a superior high-definition home entertainment experience.

"This is an exciting time for Disney as we not only announce the release of our first Platinum Disney animated classic on Blu-ray with Sleeping Beauty, but also allow consumers to create an entirely new home entertainment experience with stunning new bonus features and amazing interactive capabilities like never before seen," stated Bob Chapek, President of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

For the first time ever, WDSHE will begin releasing its treasured animated classics on Platinum Edition Blu-ray Disc™ launching with Sleeping Beauty in the fall of 2008. Taking advantage of the numerous technological advancements of the Blu-ray format, these all time favorites have been revitalized to include exceptional high-definition picture and sound quality and compelling interactive content such as virtual games, full motion picture-in-picture and online shopping capabilities via BD-Live broadband connection.

Sleeping Beauty will be WDSHE's first Platinum Edition Blu-ray Disc and will feature a Virtual Castle, utilizing the new BD-Live technology, as well as the interactive game Maleficent's Challenge which puts viewers face-to-face with one of Disney's greatest villains. Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray Disc will also feature an all-new enhanced home theater mix in 7.1 surround sound.

Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo Blu-ray Disc will debut the first Cine-Explore featuring full motion picture-in-picture (BonusView). This interactive visual commentary with director Andrew Stanton, co-writer Bob Peterson and co-director Lee Unkrich allows the viewer to dive deeper into the making of Finding Nemo without ever leaving the film. For kids and families, there is the all-new BD-Java enabled learning mode "Mr. Ray's Ed-venture." Hosted by Dory, Marlin and of course Mr. Ray, viewers will learn all about sea life and have the opportunity to earn stickers for their virtual sticker book by answering "quizlettes" while watching the movie. Viewers can also go to their sticker book at any time and create their own scene. Finding Nemo will also feature an all-new enhanced home theater mix in 7.1 surround sound.

As part of its continued worldwide Blu-ray release strategy, WDSHE will be announcing the addition of many exciting movie titles to their 2008 Blu-ray line-up in North America, Europe and Asia.

In North America, WDSHE will be releasing new theatrical titles to Blu-ray Disc day-and-date with DVD including The Game Plan (Walt Disney Pictures) on January 22; Gone Baby Gone and Becoming Jane (both Miramax) on February 12; and Dan In Real Life (Touchstone Pictures) on March 11. WDSHE will expand its catalogue titles on Blu-ray Disc with the releases of The Rock (Hollywood Pictures) and Con Air (Touchstone Pictures) on January 8; Crimson Tide (Hollywood Pictures) on February 5; The Rookie (Walt Disney Pictures) on March 4; Hidalgo (Touchstone Pictures), Coyote Ugly: The Double Shot Edition (Touchstone Pictures), Unbreakable (Touchstone Pictures), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Walt Disney Pictures) and National Treasure: Collector's Edition (Walt Disney Pictures) in spring 2008.

In Europe/Australia, WDSHE will roll out Blu-ray Discs in 2008 beginning with The Recruit (Touchstone Pictures) in January; and Dark Water (Touchstone Pictures) in February; Underdog (Walt Disney Pictures) and Starsky & Hutch (Buena Vista) in February; Coyote Ugly (Touchstone Pictures) and The Rookie (Walt Disney Pictures) in March; Hidalgo (Touchstone Pictures) and Gone Baby Gone (Miramax) in April; Signs (Touchstone Pictures), There Will Be Blood (Miramax), Shall We Dance (Miramax), Ladder 49 (Touchstone Pictures), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Walt Disney Pictures) and National Treasure: Collector's Edition (Walt Disney Pictures) in May; and The Game Plan (Walt Disney Pictures) and Unbreakable (Touchstone Pictures) in summer 2008.

Japan will see WDSHE release Blu-ray titles starting with Hollywoodland (Miramax) in February; The Rookie (Walt Disney Pictures), Hidalgo (Touchstone Pictures), Meet The Robinsons (Walt Disney Pictures), and Starsky & Hutch (Buena Vista) in April; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Walt Disney Pictures), Coyote Ugly (Touchstone Pictures) and National Treasure: Collector's Edition (Walt Disney Pictures) in May; and Unbreakable (Touchstone Pictures) and Signs (Touchstone Pictures) in summer 2008.

Following overwhelming consumer response WDSHE is also announcing the extension of Disney's Magical Blu-ray Tour, sponsored by Panasonic, to eight additional North American cities. The first stop will be to Toronto, Canada the weekend of January 25th and continue on to Nashville, Denver, Dallas, Raleigh-Durham, Hartford and conclude with Chicago at Unity 2008 in July.

The results of the 2007 tour not only reaffirmed consumers continued desires for high-definition picture without compromise but reaffirmed the need to be educated on how to achieve the ultimate high-definition home entertainment experience beyond just owning an HDTV."

Okay... so that's that. Now let's get down to business...

I woke up this morning to an amusing series of e-mails, from a few people who were eager to report to us some "very disturbing news" in the hopes of summoning our outrage. It appears that reports are starting to leak online today that Warner was offered as much as $500 million for their move to Blu-ray exclusivity. Seems to me, we told you all last week that money was being waved around (in our 12/31 post - click here ( http://www.thedigitalbits.com/mytwocentsa148.html#last07 ) and scroll down a bit). What the HD-DVD camp wants to sweep under the carpet today is how much THEY ponied up. The HD-DVD camp's strategy in the wake of their failure is to discredit Warner by leaking details of the deal to the HD-DVD friendly online media. The idea is to make Warner feel as much heat as Paramount and DreamWorks felt after THEY took money to flip HD-DVD exclusive last year.

I checked out a couple of these sites this morning, and saw a bunch of this sort of thing: "If this is true, we are shocked and outraged to learn that Warner took as much as $500 million from the BDA!" This is no small amount of hypocrisy! You see... the HD-DVD camp offered Warner (and oh, by the way, Fox as well) a very similar sum of up-front money these past few weeks to flip to THEIR side. In other words, the HD-DVD camp got beat at their own game. Now they're embarrassed and pissed off about it, so they're leaking information to try to dust up outrage among the faithful and the fanboys online. It should surprise no one that format wars are a dirty, messy business. But we'd like to remind people today that this format war was FORCED on this industry, on enthusiasts and on consumers, by the very same high-level egomaniacs who are now pointing fingers, and using online enthusiasts to play their little spin games. The fact that their reaction today is to circle the wagons and wage a P.R. war online tells you everything you need to know about the power-hungry egos involved, and how little they actually care about doing what's right for consumers.

On that note, here's another difference between what Warner has done and what Paramount and DreamWorks did last year: Warner actually intends to release all the HD-DVD titles they've announced and that consumers have already pre-ordered. Further, they intend to keep releasing new HD-DVD titles until the end of May. Anyone out there remember what Paramount and DreamWorks did? They pulled out of Blu-ray suddenly, with no warning to retailers or consumers, and simply cancelled several titles - some that were already pressed and shipped to stores. Anyone remember these?

So do all the people that pre-ordered them. The HD-DVD camp can spin all it wants. In the meantime, Warner knows they've made the right decision. And if the senior home video leadership at Universal, Paramount and DreamWorks has ANY concern for their customers as a whole, they'll set their egos aside and close the book on this stupid format war by announcing Blu-ray support. It's time to move on, folks.

Speaking of doing what's right for consumers, we have an idea. Warner and the rest of the Blu-ray Disc Association should take the high road in the weeks ahead, and offer some kind of deal to HD-DVD enthusiasts as a nice gesture. It could be some kind of arrangement that allows them to exchange a couple of their HD-DVD movies for Blu-ray versions of the same title, or some kind discount on Blu-ray hardware and software. Think of it as a peace offering - a way to welcome HD-DVD consumers into the Blu-ray fold. It's just a thought we had, but we think it's something the BDA should seriously consider, to help put all this format war foolishness - and the acrimony it's inspired online - behind us.

Finally today, what would one of these format war posts be without another mention of Michael Bay. Here's what he had to say on his website yesterday about the Warner news:

"Well another studio down. Maybe I was right? Blu ray is just better. HD will die a slow death. It's what I predicted a year ago. Now with Warner's down for the count with Blu Ray. That makes it easier for Wal-Mart to push Blu Ray. And whatever Wal-Mart pushes - wins. Hd better start giving out those $120 million dollars checks to stay alive. Maybe they can give me some so I can give it to my Make-A-Wish charity, just to shut me up. Have faith people Transformers will come out in Blu-ray one day!


Oh my. Stay tuned...

I guess with news this big, you just can't stop reporting it until it all plays itself out.

Variety has posted an in-depth piece on Warner's decision to go Blu-ray exclusive, complete with two new key pieces of information. The first is no surprise: New Line has confirmed that it's going Blu-ray only along with Warner. The second perhaps shouldn't be surprising either, but here it is: The North American HD-DVD Promotions Group has officially cancelled its Sunday press event at CES. Also in the piece, Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders says that his studio will continue to release HD-DVD titles until May 31st, to honor its previous agreements with the HD-DVD camp. The article ends with the following, also no surprise: "Warner's shift toward Blu-ray is expected to hasten the demise of HD DVD." Indeed.

Meanwhile, industry observer "Media Wonk" (aka Paul Sweeting) has also posted an interesting feature over at Content Agenda, in which a couple of points that we've been making lately here at The Bits are confirmed by Warner's Sanders. First, Blu-ray stand alone players outsold HD-DVD in December. Here's the quote:

"One of the things you see in the NPD data for this fourth quarter was that even with a $100 [price] premium, Blu-ray set tops outsold HD set tops in December. Even with Toshiba having the lowest-cost player in the market, software sales remained 2 to 1 in favor of Blu-ray."

Second, many avid movie buyers have stopped purchasing DVDs while they've been waiting for the format war to end...

"We're seeing research now that shows that consumers are starting to delay purchases because of the format war, not just on high-def but standard-def purchases as well. That's very alarming."

As to the talk of being motivated by financial inducements, Sanders says this:

"There is absolutely no incentive from either side that would have changed the decision we made based on what we were seeing in the consumer data. The worldwide DVD business is about $40 billion. Any incentives we might have been offered would have paled next to the lost profits from that business if we get this one wrong."

For the second time this post, indeeeed.

Also on the Blu-ray front this evening, 20th Century Fox has released street dates for several new catalog titles, some of which had been delayed from last year. Included are Man on Fire (due next week on 1/8), Wall Street and Me, Myself and Irene (2/5), Ice Age (3/4) and ID4 and I, Robot (3/11). Additional titles and dates are expected to be announced on Monday at CES.

Stay tuned...

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