Sony presses Shanghai into duty for Blu-ray


As U.S. consumer spending falters, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is looking to China, where Tuesday it unveiled the country's first Blu-ray Disc factory with partner the Shanghai Media Group.

Just weeks after Sony became the first Hollywood studio to distribute its movies in the new format in China, SPHE and SMG christened a 130,000-square-foot facility outside Shanghai capable of making 500,000 discs a month.

The factory, which will employ 200 full-time workers, was launched to serve the perceived growing number of Chinese willing to spend as much as $30 for a high-definition new release in a market flooded with $1 bootleg DVDs and pirated downloads.

With 32 Blu-ray titles in the market and plans to have 100 out by year's end, SPHE this week will release catalog titles "Broken Trail" and "Daddy Day Camp" and follow those with Blu-ray versions of new releases "21" and "Vantage Point" after the Lunar New Year ending Feb. 2.

Sony vp China Tim Meade said the Blu-ray format accounts for 20% of SPHE's royalties business in such territories as Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

"The results in Southeast Asia give us confidence," Meade said. "The same discerning consumer now exists in China, and now we're here to serve them."

SPHE's biggest Blu-ray sales account in China is Amazon's Chinese partner, said Meade, who noted that the company's titles also sell at 100 Sony Electronics shops in China, in the government-run Xinhua Bookstore chain and in specialty shops catering to wealthy Chinese.

The Shanghai facility is Sony's fourth Blu-ray production line; the others are in Terre Haute, Ind., Shizuoka, Japan, and Salzburg, Austria. A fifth line is due to be added to the company's Pitman, N.J., facility by mid-2009. (partialdiff)