LAS VEGAS -- Sony's home entertainment unit has named the first 20 movies it intends to launch on Blu-ray Disc, the high-definition video disc format backed by Sony and several other major consumer electronics manufacturers.
Sony timed the announcement to coincide with the start of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, at which commercialization plans for the format are expected to be announced.
"We want everyone to know that there will be plenty of software content [for the launch of Blu-ray Disc]," says Ben Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Sony's first Blu-ray Disc movies will include The Fifth Element, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Desperado, For a Few Dollars More, The Guns of Navarone, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, A Knight's Tale, Kung Fu Hustle, The Last Waltz, Legends of the Fall, Resident Evil Apocalypse, Robocop, Sense and Sensibility, Stealth, Species, SWAT, XXX, Black Hawk Down, and The Bridge on the River Kwai.
The discs will be launched to coincide with the availability of home players, he says. Major consumer electronics brands are expected to disclose their launch schedule later in the week.
Sony did not disclose the discs' retail price, which Feingold says will be announced in the next couple of weeks. He says that the discs will be priced at a premium over existing DVDs, but that they won't be a lot more expensive.
"I think people will be happy," he says of the pricing.
Among the launch titles, Bram Stoker's Dracula will be released with multichannel uncompressed audio, and both Black Hawk Down and The Bridge on the River Kwai will be released on dual-layer 50GB discs, according to Feingold.
Content makers can choose from three video compression systems on Blu-ray Disc, including MPEG2 (which is used on current DVDs) and the newer VC1 and MPEG4 AVC formats. Sony will use the MPEG2 system because it provides a reliably better picture, says Feingold.
"The new codecs are interesting but unproven," he says.
The company plans to add Java-based games to its discs by the middle of the year. At about the same time, new releases should be emerging at a rate of about four titles per month, rising to ten titles per month during the fourth quarter.
Blu-ray Disc is backed by a group of major consumer electronics manufacturers that includes Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), Samsung Electronics, and Sony. It will compete against the HD-DVD format, which is backed by the DVD Forum and by such companies as Intel, Microsoft, NEC, and Toshiba.
The first HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc players should arrive in stores during the first half of this year.
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