From USA Today:
Hollywood has a blockbuster lineup of films coming this fall, not just to theaters but department stores and retailers, local merchants and online retailers.
James Cameron's epic Titanic is among films slated for release on Blu-ray. A stream of box-office hits and classics, including the Indiana Jones films and Titanic, are queued up for release on Blu-ray Disc as part of a concerted campaign to cement the high-definition format's place in your living room.
The 6-year-old Blu-ray Disc is reaching a critical juncture in its growth process. Despite its video and sound superiority to DVD, the format is growing at a slower pace than expected. Meanwhile, the momentum of streaming video — the fastest-growing segment of the home video market — threatens to snuff out some consumers' love of movies on physical discs. Studios see streaming video's advance "and with every step it takes" it lessens the likelihood that "somebody goes and buys a Blu-ray movie or rents it," says Phil Swann, president of TVPredictions.com.
Studios "see their window closing — not real quick, but closing slowly," Swann says. … They want to "get these classic movies out there and sell them now, because we aren't exactly sure what the environment is going to look like a year from now."
About 42 million U.S. households have one or more Blu-ray Disc players, including a Sony PlayStation 3 game system, which plays Blu-ray games and movies. That means more than one-third of U.S. homes can watch Blu-ray movies. But at this point in DVD's lifespan, about half of U.S. households had a DVD player, including DVD-playing PlayStation 2 systems, according to market research firm IHS Screen Digest.
A look at some of the landmark films hitting Blu-ray for the first time in this fall's campaign to entice new Blu-ray adoptees and drive sales of discs to current Blu-ray consumers:
•September. Box-office leviathan Titanic — written, directed and co-produced by James Cameron— makes its maiden Blu-ray voyage Sept. 10. In addition to a standard Blu-ray edition, the No. 2 all-time box office film comes in a 3-D release, too ($54.99 for Blu-ray 3D; $44.99 for standard Blu-ray; prices are suggested and can usually be found discounted by 40% or more). The documentary Ghosts of the Abyss 3D, which chronicles Cameron's real-life return visit to the shipwreck, hits Blu-ray ($44.99) on Sept. 11.
Hollywood is also leaning heavily on the legacy of another filmmaker during the upcoming Blu-ray blitz: Steven Spielberg. Raiders of the Lost Ark and the other Indiana Jones films arrive Sept. 18 in Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures ($99.98). Released earlier this month: Jaws ($29.98), which Universal restored for the Blu-ray release. It looks better — and scarier — than when it set box-office records in 1975. "It's the movie that people remember. It's just really crystal clear and vivid," Spielberg says in a video segment on the new disc, about the restoration of the film. "The sight and sound is something I didn't even get when I made the movie."
•Sept. 25. a 15-film Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection from Universal ($299.98) that includes 13 new-to-Blu-ray films including Rear Window and The Birds.
And Bond 50, a $299.99 box set honoring the super-spy franchise's 50th anniversary collects all 22 films including nine new-to-Blu-ray.
•October. The month begins with beauty and the beasts. On Oct. 2, Disney releases the CinderellaDiamond Edition ($39.99), while Universal offers up the Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection ($159.98), which has eight horror films including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Wolf Man.
Then, another Spielberg blockbuster, E.T. The Extraterrestrial ($34.98), invades stores Oct. 9. Also out that day, the Hitchcock film Dial M for Murder 3D ($35.99).
The following week, Cameron aims to cement his title as king of the Blu-ray world with the release of the Avatar Blu-ray 3D Collector's Edition ($39.99, Oct. 16). Avatar is the top-selling Blu-ray release, based on units and revenue. But the 3-D disc version has been available only to buyers of Panasonic 3-D HDTVs and 3-D glasses.
"The films that we made before Blu-ray were never seen in the homes the way we would want them to as filmmakers," says Avatar and Titanic co-producer Jon Landau. "Blu-ray allows us to deliver the films at a quality level that we're proud of. With these two titles coming out back-to-back, we're very excited about what people will be able to experience in their own homes."
•November. The month kicks off with several 1950s classics, such as Guys and Dolls ($34.99) and Sunset Boulevard ($26.98), and Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon ($39.95), all released on Nov. 6. The following week is highlighted by a 50th anniversary Blu-ray edition from Sony of Lawrence of Arabia ($95.99 for four-disc limited edition collector's set; $26.99 for two-disc version) and My Big Fat Greek Wedding: 10th Anniversary Special ($19.98).
•December.Finding Nemo 3D ($49.99 for 3-D version; $39.99 for standard Blu-ray) comes to Blu-ray Dec. 4 following the film's 3-D theatrical re-release beginning Sept. 14.
Sony has spent several years restoring the image from the 65mm negatives of Lawrence of Arabia, which premiered in theaters in December 1962. After the negatives were cleaned and put through an 8K scanning process, which captures detail beyond that seen in current high-definition, repair technicians fixed tens of thousands of scratches and other decay using high-tech restoration software.
During the iconic scene where Lawrence blows out the match and then the camera turns toward the desert, "You can actually see the detail in the riders and practically feel the sand as it blows across the desert floor," says Grover Crisp, an executive vice president in Sony Pictures Entertainment's film restoration and digital mastering division.
Households with Blu-ray
Studios have many reasons for filling the Blu-ray pipeline. Sales of older, so-called catalog films on Blu-ray rose 26% in the first half of 2012, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, which estimates that as many as one-third of homes can view Blu-ray movies. Overall Blu-ray disc sales rose 13.3% over the first six months of 2012.
Household penetration of Blu-ray "has not occurred as quickly as the industry had predicted, but it still continues to have double-digit increases," says Matthew Lieberman of PricewaterhouseCoopers. The consulting firm expects Blu-ray movie disc sales will surpass DVDs by 2015.
But the overall home video market is expected to decline from $19.1 billion in 2011 to $18 billion in 2016, as projected by PwC. Digital rentals and sales are trending up, but not enough to offset overall declines in disc sales and rentals. "The physical market is having a materially negative impact and continues to face a lot of challenges, and will never be able to get back to the glory times," when it hit a high of $19.6 billion in 2006, Lieberman says.
Video-streaming revenue, which accounted for about $2.8 billion in 2011, will reach $6.7 billion by 2016, PwC estimates. That will surpass disc sales, which are expected to decline from about $9 billion in 2011 to about $5.5 billion in 2016.
"Streaming and connected video services like Netflix and Vudu have eaten into Blu-ray Disc sales as consumers have experimented and shifted their purchase behavior. Streaming services and cloud-based content are the future when it comes to video," says Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). "Over time, the drive to own a library of physical media content will give way to the convenience of on-demand content from the cloud."
Studios are not prepared to publicly write off physical media; the wave of titles and lower prices could encourage some consumers to move off the sidelines. Blu-ray player prices have fallen faster than DVD player prices did — the average price is $84, according to CEA — as have price tags on movie discs, with discs costing less than $10 commonly found at discount stores.
And for the digitally inclined, many new releases come in combo packs that include Blu-ray, DVD and digital copies that can be viewed on laptops and portable devices. Some also have UltraViolet copies that can be stored in cloud-based digital lockers and streamed to mobile devices.
What's so great about Blu-ray?
Some consumers still aren't sure why they should want Blu-ray. So Hollywood is again stressing Blu-ray's superior video quality — up to six times the resolution of a DVD — and its improved surround sound, which is richer than can be achieved with current streaming services.
Not only can Blu-ray players handle DVDs and CDs, but most also have built-in streaming capabilities, so consumers have the choice of multiple viewing methods. Streaming and physical media "do not cancel each other out," says Andy Parsons, chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association's promotions committee. "They all have different roles to play."
Considering the slow economy, the industry's 1.43% increase in total home entertainment spending in the first half of 2012 suggests "We are doing quite well," says Jeff Baker, Warner Home Video's executive vice president and general manager of theatrical catalog.
With the coming wave of old favorites on Blu-ray along with new blockbusters such as The Hunger Games and The Avengers, due Sept. 26, IHS Screen Digest principal U.S. media analyst Tom Adams is optimistic that the overall home entertainment industry might see an uptick in 2012 — its first positive growth since the DVD hit its peak. Netflix and improved pay TV services have cut into disc sales, he says. Consumers "have cut back to a more picky approach of limiting purchases to all-time favorites," Adams says. "Every one of these upcoming releases have millions who think of it as their favorite title of all time."
And, in a way, Hollywood is hedging its bets. Each time a studio spends millions to restore a classic film such as Jaws or Lawrence of Arabia, it adds a new high-definition master that can be licensed for TV broadcast or streaming.
Whatever streaming's effect on Blu-ray, Hollywood is backing the discs for the foreseeable future. But many believe that Blu-ray could be the last physical format.
"We really don't know what the future is going to be," Baker says. "It's illogical to think that in the next four to five years there is going to be a new format — like DVD was new when VHS was around, or Blu-ray is new when DVD is around."
Blu-ray could evolve to handle even higher-def, 4K video that delivers four times the resolution found on current discs. Sony already markets a $25,000 4K projector and a $250 Blu-ray player that converts current discs to 4K resolution.
More 4K HDTVs are due later this year. A new 4K ecosystem with higher-resolution discs and TVs could "give optical media another four to five years," says Tom Campbell of Video Audio Center, a Los Angeles-area electronics retailer.
New high-end products are needed because even though lower Blu-ray prices attract consumers, they result in lower margins for retailers — and studios. "Hollywood is looking at this, and we as retailers are concerned about it," Campbell says.
“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire