Martin Scorsese talks up Blu-ray

Director tells confab that technology will extend a film's life

Martin Scorsese, star attraction at Hollywood's latest cheerleading session for high-definition home entertainment, said the words many a studio suit can only hope prove true.

"Blu-ray is going to extend the lifetime of a movie," the filmmaker told the crowd Tuesday during Blu-Con 2.0 symposium at the Beverly Hilton.

Speaking by -- what else? -- video, Scorsese praised Criterion's remastering of the 1948 film classic "The Red Shoes" for upcoming release on Blu-ray Disc.

"It's like experiencing the film for the first time again," he said. "It's not just the details of the eyes or such; it creates a completely different experience."

Movies viewed in the HD format boast a "film-grain quality," Scorsese said, adding Blu-ray "allows the film to be seen as closely as possible to how it was intended to be."

Despite the rhapsodizing, Blu-Con, sponsored by industry consortium Digital Entertainment Group, was not without its sobering moments for anyone expecting an overnight rebound in studios' sagging home-entertainment fortunes.

During a panel presentation, moderator and Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen asked studio execs whether their divisions' recent double-digit revenue declines were more tied to the recession or DVD format fatigue.

"It's a bit of both," Sony home entertainment president David Bishop said. "But as the recession eases, we're already starting to see the business start to recover."

Fox's Mike Dunn estimated that "the economy is probably 80% of our issue," and Warner Bros.' Ron Sanders said the DVD reaching market saturation is the other big reason for recent revenue slippage.

"People buy the most discs when they first get a player," Sanders said.

That could bode well for growth in Blu-ray software sales. But most forecasts suggest Blu-ray growth won't begin to replace DVD slippage dollar for dollar until 2011.

Year-to-date, home-entertainment revenue is off about 12% industrywide. Solid holiday sales should reduce that annual decline to 10% or less by year's end, execs said.

"This holiday season, we expect to see Blu-ray player prices start at about $100," DEG president Sanders said.

That could help fuel even further growth in the format's installed base, which has increased by an estimated 112% so far this year.

"I'm very optimistic about 2010," Universal's Craig Kornblau said.

Meanwhile, Sony senior vp restoration and mastering Grover Crisp said Scorsese's infectious enthusiasm for Blu-ray seems has been a boon for Sony and others working on disc remastering and special features.

"It has been great because he has also gotten other directors like Michael Mann and Christopher Nolan involved as well," Crisp said.