Dis cruises malls with high def

Launching nat'l tour to promote Blu-ray Disc titles

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is hitting the road to promote the Blu-ray Disc format. The studio next month is launching a national mall tour to tout the next-generation format to consumers, complete with towering widescreens, interactive video game and movie stations and a mini theater.

Disney's Magical Blu-ray Tour will visit 18 malls for a series of three-day runs. The objective is to tackle consumer confusion about the two competing high-definition formats and about high definition in general.

A recent study by the NPD Group showed that 83% of reported high-definition disc purchases actually were regular DVDs. "We know this because the titles aren't available on high-def disc," analyst Russ Crupnick said.

Another study, by Leichtman Research Group, found that nearly half of the 24 million households that have HDTVs aren't watching high-definition programming of any sort.

"There's a lot of consumer confusion out there, and we want to help everyone understand this amazing new technology," said Bob Chapek, president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. "It is imperative that we continue to educate and engage consumers about the advantages and exciting features that are unique to the Blu-ray Disc format.

"Our goal with the Disney Magical Blu-ray Tour is to reach as many people as possible and to help educate the consumers across all demographics," Chapek said. "Our presentations and demo areas will hold something of interest for everyone, from kids and their parents to older adults and teens.

"Even early adopters won't be disappointed with the first looks of the bonus materials that we're rolling out for our future titles," he added.

The tour, sponsored by Panasonic, begins Aug. 17-19 at the Topanga Westfield mall in Woodland Hills and concludes Dec. 21-23 at the Chandler Mall in Phoenix. Along the way, the Disney Blu-ray roadshow touches down in such cities as San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Houston.

At each stop, consumers can walk around a pair of giant blue towers crowned with widescreen monitors. At more than a dozen interactive "stations," they can preview Blu-ray Disc versions of such recent Disney animated hits as "Cars" and "Meet the Robinsons" as well as play the "Liar's Dice" game from the Blu-ray edition of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

But the heart of the exhibit is a mini theater with hourly presentations on Blu-ray technology and high definition in general. Then comes a brief recap of how high-definition television came to be, followed by a detailed look at Blu-ray Disc, with a focus on the format's interactivity, both present and planned.

Disney is one of seven studios supporting Blu-ray Disc, along with 20th Century Fox, MGM, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount and Lionsgate. Warner and Paramount also release their films on HD DVD, while Universal releases are exclusively on HD DVD.