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HD DVD: Godsend or Box Office Threat?
by Christopher Stone

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Toshiba HD DVD Player Is Now Available

Toshiba HD DVD Player Is Now Available
The media and the technology peddlers say that the next thing we must add to our television monitor or home theater is an HD DVD player. But is this enhanced digital technology a godsend for movie and music lovers, or is it simply one more nail in the box office coffin?

What is HD-DVD?

Those who would have us speed over to Best Buy or Circuit City to buy the new technology say that High Definition DVD will render standard discs obsolete, or, at least, inadequate. In general, HD-DVD is capable of storing between two and four times as much data as standard DVD. HD-DVD's promoters claim that the picture and sound qualities are dramatically better than that of the standard DVD. HD-DVD may be a better method of watching motion pictures on your home theater, but that also makes it another reason, along with high ticket and concession prices, pre movie commercials, and rude customers, not to get off of your butt for an "escape to the movies!"

The Battle of the HD-DVD formats!

Those of you around in the 1970s remember that the initial rollout of home video tape recorders included a battle between two different and incompatible formats: VHS and Beta. VHS knocked out the Sony-promoted Beta in the first round. A similar format fight looms for HD-DVD preeminence. This time
The Phantom's Music of the Night is on HD DVD

The Phantom's Music of the Night is on HD DVD
around, instead of VHS vs. Beta, the match is Blu-ray vs. AOD.

Blu-ray is the HD-DVD format that uses a 405nm-wavelength blue-violet laser technology, in contrast to the 650nm-wavelength red laser technology used in traditional DVD formats. The re-writable Blu-ray disc, with a data transfer rate of 36Mbps can hold up to 27 GB capacity, which amounts to about 12 hours of standard video or more than 2 hours of high definition video.

The Blu-Ray format was developed jointly by Sony, Samsung, Sharp, Thomson, Hitachi, Matsushita, Pioneer, Philips, Mistubishi and LG Electronics. Blu-Ray HD-DVD will be available this summer.

AOD, short for Advanced Optical Disc, is Blu-Ray's HD-DVD competitor. AOD is already available in the U.S. Both formats use 405nm-wavelength blue-violet laser technology, in contrast to the 650nm-wavelength red laser technology used in traditional DVD formats. However, while Blu-Ray has a storage capacity of 27 GB on a single-layer disc, AOD has a storage capacity of 20GB on a single-layer disc.

AOD was developed jointly by Toshiba and NEC.

Be prepared to pay about $500.00 for the first generation of AOD HD-DVD players, and about twice that amount for Blu-Ray units. HD-DVD movies will be priced between $25.00-30.00. This year alone, Warner Brothers is
Sony's Blu-Ray HD DVD discs are due this summer

Sony's Blu-Ray HD DVD discs are due this summer
issuing more than 50 films in HD DVD, among them, BATMAN BEGINS, HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, and THE PERFECT STORM.

Paramount, Sony, and Universal have already stepped up to the High Def DVD plate with SAHARA, SYRIANA, HITCH, FOUR BROTHERS, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, and many other titles.

On April 18, AOD HD DVD, via a Toshiba unit went on sale in America. Rather than being impressed by the new technology, customers griped justifiably that many Best Buy stores were demonstrating the new players, not with HD DVDs, but with standard discs.

What are the nations' theater owners doing to combat this latest threat to the box office? Just for openers, about 6000 multiplex screens are set to go digital before the year ends. However, a bigger threat to business than HD-DVD may be what's happening at the theaters' point of purchase: escalating movie ticket prices.

Over dinner, I spoke to a movie fan, asking him if HD-DVD, as well as other technological improvements, would make him less likely to see movies in theaters. "Probably not," he told me. "But rising ticket prices will. I gave a $10 bill to the box office cashier last week, and she asked me for another fifty cents. It now costs $10.50 to see a movie at my favorite theater. That could keep me home, in front of the Panasonic."

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The Business of Show
Every other Friday

Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.

Other Columns
Other columns by Christopher Stone:

The Cautionary Box-Office

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up. Part Two

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up, Part 1

Quality Is Independent

Oh, the Horror!

All Columns

Christopher Stone
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.

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