Par completes Blu-ray's sweep

Winner of next-gen format war now has all 6 majors

All six major Hollywood studios are now in the Blu-ray Disc camp, a day after Toshiba has pulled the plug on HD DVD and Blu-ray became effectively the only next-gen game in town.

Paramount Home Entertainment quietly came onboard via a statement sent exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday: "We are pleased that the industry is moving to a single high-definition format, as we believe it is in the best interest of the consumer," the studio said. "As we look to (begin) releasing our titles on Blu-ray, we will monitor consumer adoption and determine our release plans accordingly."

No further details were given.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment, in contrast, cast its lot with Blu-ray within hours of Toshiba's announcement Tuesday morning that it was ending the format war by ceasing the development, manufacture and marketing of HD DVD players by the end of March. Universal made a big splash with its announcement, sending media outlets a statement from division president Craig Kornblau in which he said, "While Universal values the close partnership we have shared with Toshiba, it is time to turn our focus to releasing new and catalog titles on Blu-ray."

Janet Murray, director of Georgia Tech's masters and doctorate program in digital media, said a single format supported by all six major studios has a much better chance of success than two rival ones that each take only a chunk of Hollywood.

"It's a big victory for the consumer," she said.

Now that the studios are no longer battling each other over which format is best, Murray said, they can focus on generating awareness among consumers of the many benefits of high-definition media. Murray predicts "a standardization of extras" now that everyone's releasing films on a single format rather than two, each with its own set of capabilities.

Murray also foresees "much more content and much more breadth of content" now that Blu-ray is the only way to go. "When people have these higher-end screens at home, they take great pleasure in them, and this will push ahead the delivery (of movies) in high-definition," she said.

Ironically, Universal had been exclusive with HD DVD since the format's launch in April 2006, while Paramount had initially supported both HD DVD and Blu-ray. Paramount and DreamWorks switched to HD DVD-only in August, reportedly after receiving a $150 million payment from the format's supporters for "promotional consideration."

Neither studio has announced specific titles earmarked for early Blu-ray release, though both are expected to start with new theatricals coming the same day as the standard DVD, beginning in late spring or early summer.

The four other majors committed to Blu-ray are Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (along with its distributed MGM Home Entertainment label), Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video (including distributed labels New Line Home Entertainment, BBC Video and HBO Video). Mini-major Lionsgate also has been an exclusive Blu-ray backer since the start.
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