HD DVD still kickin' with new releases


More CES coverage

Down but not out, the beleaguered HD DVD format suddenly has some product in the pipeline, after studio announcements that had been slotted for the Consumer Electronics Show were yanked at the last minute due to the pre-show defection of Warner Home Video to the Blu-ray Disc camp.

One of the most high-profile HD DVD releases, ironically, will be from Warner, which won't officially abandon the Toshiba-developed format until the end of May. The studio Wednesday announced it will release a two-disc special edition of the action hit "Twister" on all three home entertainment software formats, with the DVD and Blu-Ray Disc coming May 6 and the HD DVD edition following May 27.

Orders are due April 1 for the standard DVD and Blu-ray Disc and April 22 for the HD DVD. Special features include a commentary, an HBO First Look Special on the making of the film, and a 2003 History Channel special on tornadoes.

Paramount Home Entertainment, which after May will be the only major studio besides longtime supporter Universal Studios Home Entertainment to release titles on the HD DVD format, is expected to announce a full slate of HD DVD titles for the first quarter Thursday -- a slate it was to unveil at CES.

Already in stores is "Zodiac," which quietly shipped to retailers during CES -- and the HD DVD Promotional Group's self-imposed quiet period.

Next is "Into the Wild," Sean Penn's acclaimed adaptation of an inspirational true story, which arrives in stores March 4, along with the drama "Things We Lost in the Fire."

DreamWorks Animation's animated hit "Bee Movie" is next, coming March 11 with hours of extras, including Web-enabled downloadable features such as a "Build a Bee" avatar. The HD DVD also comes with a picture-in-picture storyboard reel, customizable menus, a trivia track and an interactive exploration of the world of bees.

Slated for later in the quarter, with no release date yet set, are "The Kite Runner" and "The Jack Ryan Collection," the latter a set of four thrillers starring the fictional CIA operative: "The Hunt for Red October," with Alec Baldwin as Ryan, "Clear and Present Danger" and "Patriot Games," each with Harrison Ford in the lead role, and "The Sum of All Fears," in which Ben Affleck takes over as Ryan.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment is expected to announce upcoming HD DVD titles as well, including "American Gangster," coming as a combo disc. Ken Graffeo, executive vp of HD strategic marketing, said the studio was "very encouraged" by Toshiba's recent player price drops and believes it will spur HD DVD software sales, particularly on the new release front.

The product announcements come in a week when the top 10 high-definition disc sellers are all Blu-ray Disc releases, according to an analysis of Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales numbers by Home Media Magazine's market research department.

Net HD DVD sales, according to Nielsen, constituted only 15% of hi-def disc sales last week. And the top HD DVD seller, "The Kingdom," sold just 10% as many copies as the top Blu-ray Disc release, "3:10 to Yuma."