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Blu-ray Set to Launch

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Sony to bow Blu-ray titles May 23

Launch follows rival HD DVD by two months

By Paul Sweeting 2/27/2006


FEB. 27 | The Blu-ray Disc format will make its formal U.S. debut on May 23, just under two months after the launch of its rival high-definition platform, HD DVD.


The late-May launch will include eight titles from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and four from Lionsgate, the two studios said Monday. Sony will release seven more catalog titles June 13, while Lionsgate will chip in another six.


Among the first wave of releases from Sony, are 50 First Dates, House of Flying Daggers and MGM's The Last Waltz.


Lionsgate titles include Crash, Saw and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.


The Lionsgate titles will retail for $30 to $40 each. Sony doesn?t include suggested retail prices with its releases, but catalog titles from the studio are expected to retail for about $25, while new releases will go for about $30.


The first Blu-ray new release is expected to be Sony?s Underworld Evolution, which will bow on DVD and Blu-ray in early summer.


The first wave of HD DVD titles will bow March 28 from Warner Home Video.


The Sony and Lionsgate releases are timed to accompany the arrival of Blu-ray players on the market from Samsung Electronics and Pioneer.


?We?re primed to ensure that a variety of Blu-ray Disc content is available at retail to support the introduction of the first BD player,? SPHE president Ben Feingold said. ?Sony Pictures further intends to provide additional titles to coincide with the launch of BD products from other manufacturers.?


The timing of those other products remains unclear, however.


According to Monday?s announcement, the Samsung and Pioneer players ?will be followed shortly? by players from Sony, among others.


If so, that would appear to represent a shift in Sony?s Blu-ray strategy, which was previously tied to the launch of the PlayStation 3 videogame platform.


Originally, Sony was to release its first Blu-ray titles in conjunction with the PS3 launch and did not plan to release a stand-alone Blu-ray player until after the PS3 got rolling.


With speculation mounting that the PS3 could be delayed, however, perhaps until next year, Sony?s plans might be evolving.


Sony Pictures officials referred questions about the hardware launch to Sony Electronics. Sony Electronics officials were not immediately available for comment.


?I?m just glad we?re finally getting this thing launched,? Lionsgate president Steve Beeks said. ?The sooner we get to one format, the better for everyone, and we think Blu-ray is clearly the format of choice. But with the other side [HD DVD] getting out first, it was important not to let them have too much of a head start.?


Other Blu-ray studios, including stalwarts 20th Century Fox and Disney, sat out Monday?s announcement.

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