Blu-ray aims for big time with 50GB discs

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Hoping to gain further advantage over rival HD-DVD, next-generation format Blu-ray Disc is getting supersized.

Two more studios this week announced dual-layer, 50GB Blu-ray Disc releases in the wake of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's rush to market of the hit theatrical "Click" as the industry's highest-capacity next-generation optical disc.

Warner Home Video said that its next wave of high-def disc titles, arriving in stores Oct. 31, will include 50GB editions of "Unforgiven" and "The Searchers."

On Tuesday at the Media-Tech conference in Long Beach, Calif., Paramount Home Entertainment marketing vp Chris Saito said Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" also will get the 50GB treatment, though he did not specify a release date.

Since Blu-ray's launch in June, studios have found that the standard single-layer, 25GB disc isn't big enough to hold all the additional special features and interactive experiences format backers had been promising.

"We discovered that once you optimize the picture and the sound, on a lot of movies that just eats up most of the room," 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment executive vp marketing Peter Staddon said. "In order to give the full Blu-ray experience, you need the extra 25GB, particularly on any long movie."

HD-DVD, the other next-generation optical disc, has a capacity of 15GB, but since the format was launched in April nearly every release has been on a dual-layer disc with a 30GB capacity.

A standard DVD holds 4.7GB of data, or one-tenth as much as the new 50GB Blu-ray Disc.

Fox has one 50GB title in the pipeline, "Kingdom of Heaven," coming Nov. 14. Lionsgate also is preparing its first 50GB disc, "The Descent," for a December release. Buena Vista hasn't announced any 50GB discs but is expected to do so shortly.

In addition to "Click," which came out Tuesday, Sony has "Black Hawk Down" arriving in stores Nov. 14 and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" coming Dec. 12.

Warner's Oct. 31 high-def disc slate also includes "The Phantom of the Opera" on Blu-ray Disc, "V for Vendetta" and "Excalibur" on HD-DVD, and "Under Siege" on both formats.

Warner said all the bonus features on the standard-DVD versions of the films will be included on the high-def editions.
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