Blu-ray confab takes aim at rival

Media festival looks to counter HD DVD initiatives

The gloves are off. Backers of the high-definition Blu-ray Disc format are staging a two-day offensive in Hollywood this week, touting their triumphs and offering previews of such upcoming releases as "Cars," "Ratatouille," "Dirty Dancing," "Spider-Man 3" and the "Die Hard" movies to a crowd of more than 50 influential print and online journalists.

The event, which concludes today, could be seen as a guns-blazing pre-emptive strike against the rival HD DVD camp, which reportedly also is gearing up with retailers, including Wal-Mart, Circuit City and Amazon, selling low-end HD DVD players at just under $200. That is expected to give the HD DVD format a significant boost, particularly in the wake of Paramount Home Entertainment's defection several weeks ago from the Blu-ray side.

The retail prices of five major Blu-ray players, some of which also play HD DVD discs, range from $378-$1,000.

The so-called Blu-ray Festival coincides with the launch of a new branding and consumer education campaign, with the tagline "I Do Blu," that premiered Sunday during the final game of the World Series.

The campaign and the festival, the latter orchestrated by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, underscores growing sentiments backed by research that consumers are largely indifferent to high-definition discs and turned off even more by the presence of two rival, incompatible next-generation formats.

To combat this, Blu-ray backers are stepping up the rhetoric and courting the press, particularly the new vanguard of online Web sites, bloggers and discussion boards that cater to the early adopters who historically have set trends the masses have followed.